GOOD WILL HUNTING (1997)
MATT DAMON, ROBIN WILLIAMS, BEN AFFLECK, MINNIE DRIVER.
If anyone ever dismisses Matt Damon as 'this year's Matthew McConaughey' again after seeing this film, then they will have to answer to me.
I had very little hope for this film. The premise ('bad boy' from tough neighbourhood is really a genius being dragged down by the society he lives in onl,y to be saved by an unorthodox psychiatrist and the love of a good woman) and the cast (pretty boy Damon and schtick lord Williams) was enough to make me think that this film would amount to nothing but a cloying coming together of 'Little Man Tate' and 'Dangerous Minds'.
However, I am happy to say I was proven entirely wrong.
Damon is Will Hunting, a 20 year-old orphan from South Boston, who despite working as a janitor and spending most of his spare time drinking and fighting, is a mathematical genius, self educated through years of reading and visits to the library. Having suffered years of abuse and violence at the hands of various foster parents and school bullies, he is incapable of forming a relationship witha nyone but his gang of friends from his neighbourhood (led by the excellent Ben Affleck). When he beats up a bully who tortured him at school, he is arrested and sent down, only to be bailed out and put on probation under the supervision of a M.I.T. professor, who is astounded to discover Will's abilities.
Forced into therapy unwillingly, Will comes across psychiatrist Sean Maguire (Williams), who having grown up in Will's neighbourhood, is deemed most suitable to handle this difficult and rebellious young man. Maguire has his own problems, having lost his wife to cancer and shut himself off since, and these two tortured individuals set about rehabilitating each other, as Will slowly forms a relationship with beautiful English Med student Skylar (Driver).
The stunning screenplay is all the more stunning considering that it was written by Affleck and Damon. There are NO cop out situations in this, no forcefully happy answers to difficult questions. Affleck and Damon have eschwed all the typical Hollywood cliches to come up with a fresh, gritty and most importantly staggeringly realistic portrayal of this amazing characters.
Performance wise the film never ONCE falters. Damon rises far above the ranks of the usual pretty boy Brad Pitts of this world and enlivens his character with biting realism and no over-the-top quirks or unnecessary nuances. Williams is pure revelation, dropping his trademark grating overgrown boy act, delivering a career best performance. Affleck and Driver provide solid support and Stellan Skarsgard is superb as the professor who first discovers Will's genius.
This dynamic piece of filmaking is Gus Van Sant's most accessible film to date, and should bag as many Oscars as it can because it fully deserves them.....
A, dare I say it, masterpiece.