Blast From The Past: Good Will Hunting
Good Will Hunting was one of the standout films of 1997, ranking in the top ten highest-grossing films of the year. Written by a young Ben Affleck and Matt Damon and starring the latter, it follows the story of a troubled genius named Will Hunting. It also costars Stellan Skarsgard, Minnie Driver, and Robin Williams with Williams winning the Oscar for best supporting actor for the role.
Will Hunting is quickly introduced as a young man who is working as a janitor at MIT who enjoys drinking with his three best buddies after work. One of the distinguished mathematics professors at MIT, Gerald Lambeau, posts a proof on a board for his students to solve, and it is through this problem that we find our janitor is in fact a genius. Will goes on to solve a second problem anonymously and impress a young woman from Harvard before getting arrested for picking a fight. Lambeau bails him out with the agreement that he will work with him on mathematics and attend therapy sessions once a week. After scaring away several therapists, Lambeau connects Will with his former college roommate, Sean Maguire, who is played by Robin Williams. Sean connects with Will over time, and their friendship has a mutual benefit for each. Will pushes Sean to move on after the tragic loss of his wife, and Sean challenges all of Will’s defense mechanisms and helps him to not be defined by his traumatic past. This relationship is the catalyst of the film, and through it, we see Will’s growth.
At the end of the day, this is just a great story with an arc that we all love. We can all get behind the story of someone fighting from the bottom all the way to the top. Will’s character has that progression as he fights through the pain and abuse of his childhood to reach his potential. It also has this great discussion about how someone with so much potential should spend their life. What are the responsibilities that come with having a brilliant mind? I appreciate that ongoing conversation and how it reveals some of the past between Lambeau and Sean.
The acting throughout the entire film is also brilliant, as is evidenced by its multiple Academy Award nominations. Matt Damon gives a convincing performance as this brilliant young mind who has a lot of issues to work through, and Robin Williams’ role as the grieving widower was especially moving. The script was well written, and the characters were compelling. My main complaint as I watched it with fresh eyes was that the beginning of the film is a little weak. It did not hook me immediately, but after the conversation at the bar with Minnie Driver, the story strengthened and pulled me into Will’s unfolding journey.
As the late great Robin Williams is no longer with us, I must admit that it’s a great role to revisit and one of his finest performances. For his performance alone, I have to recommend that you revisit this film that is now twenty years old. I should warn, though, that after watching it on television for so long, I had forgotten the amount of language included in the film. So, that’s something to be mindful of if little ears are around. However, Good Will Hunting is a moving story of a young man who has unlimited potential and multiple hurdles to overcome, and it’s a story worth watching.