Lowdown: A uniquely talented youngster requires another unique character to unleash his talents.
We finished off our Robin Williams tributes with what is most definitely his best film ever. Yes, better than Aladdin, and yes, I’m talking about 1997’s Good Will Hunting. It’s strange that Williams’ best movie ever is not a comedy and it’s strange he does not act in the leading role, but who cares? I take good movies in any shape and size, thank you very much.
The star of the show is Matt Damon in his very first appearance. Damon is Will Hunting, a young guy from a rough part of Boston who has accumulated much roughness in his short history. Roughness which, as we witness, is still ongoing. However, we also bear witness to Will’s talents: at MIT, where he’s working as a cleaner, he’s the only one that manages to repeatedly solve the challenges offered to the proper students by their maths professor, a Fields Medal winner (Stellan Skarsgård).
Eventually, the professor manages to track Mr Hunting down in order to groom him and unleash the talent within. Alas, Will is not that compliant; it would take much more to achieve what the professor wants. It would take a Robin Williams on full throttle.
Thus we have ourselves a story about people and their need for trust, a story about loyalty. Offering support to the core story is the story of Will’s friends, headed by best mate (and Damon’s fellow script writer) Ben Affleck. His is the role of the “typical” rough neighbourhood boy, the one who does not have the talent to step up the rumoured meritocracy ladder but the one who is loyal to the death with his friends. Also there is the story of the romance developing between Will and Skyler (Minnie Driver), a rich Ivy League student who recognises the potential in Will despite all his pretend toughness.
If there is a down side to Good Will Hunting it’s the feeling that the script is too contrived, too extreme to pass as authentic. Can there really be a cleaner solving MIT’s challenges through self learning alone? Can there really be a cleaner with the means to afford such self learning in this neoliberal world of ours? Are there really the likes of Robin Williams’ character to make the effort made in the movie in order to help one unlikely guy? I hope so, but I don’t know. Perhaps this is the sort of thing that can only happen in the movies.
Overall: One of the best feel good movies of all time. 5 out of 5 crabs for Williams’ best ever effort.