To me, Good Will Hunting is an example of an almost perfect movie. Almost every aspect of this piece of work fits wonderfully into place to create a moving, personal, yet funny coming of age story. The cast is excellent and the dialogue is superbly written. There are a few plot devices that keep it from reaching new filmic heights, and that’s very unfortunate concerning the rest of the movie.
Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a janitor at MIT who is housing a very special talent that is discovered by Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård). Will is proficient in all kinds of math and has a vast amount of knowledge on history, literature, and art. Pretty much the whole intellectual package. The problem with Will is that he lacks the motivation to use it, a problem that seems to be deeper than Will originally thought. Lambeau recruits help in the form of Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), his old college room mate who has had problems getting ahead himself. Together, the two men will dig deeper into Will’s subconscious, guarded better than Helm’s Deep, to find out what is really holding him back.
Saying this movie has a definite point A to point B plot wouldn’t be giving the film any justice. Damon and Ben Affleck have crafted an excellent screenplay that isn’t only about Will’s hidden potential. It’s about Will and everyone else that is affected by Will’s ability. This mainly is a coming of age story, but it’s also a story of how one person can have such an affect on someone’s life, even if they aren’t in it for very long. It’s an age old story that is perfected by Damon, Affleck, and director Gus van Sant.
When I say that this is an age old story, I really mean that it fits a very specific formula. Right when the movie started, I pretty much knew exactly what was going to happen. I could call how and when the low points were going to happen, and when the solutions to these problems came along, I was not surprised. I’m not trying to say that all movies should be shocking or bring something new to the table, but I think following a dramatic formula to a T should be avoided.
I will say that Good Will Hunting takes this formula and through its exceptional performances and writing makes it something special. This movie set a new standard for how these kinds of movies should be made. What makes a film like Mallrats so special? It’s pretty conventional when it comes to its plot, but its characters and dialogue are what makes the movie great. Good Will Hunting does the same thing. Matt Damon and Robin Williams’ chemistry are excellent and you can forget you’re watching two actors playing a part. Stellan Skarsgård and Minnie Driver also give excellent performances. Casey Affleck may have a small part, but definitely outshines his brother, Ben.
Good Will Hunting may not be perfect, but it certainly is better than the average drama. The characters and their chemistry burn greatly and their dialogue is whip smart. Thankfully, the movie never gets overdramatic, and there is always some comedy to give us a breath of fresh air after an intense scene. This has become a modern day classic since it was released in 1997, and it has aged very well. If, by some chance, you haven’t seen this movie, definitely give it a watch. It’s inspiring on many different levels.