Top 100 Movie Review: No. 087 – Good Will Hunting (1997)

Ranked 087 on the IMDd Top All Time 100 Movies List (Dec 2017). Watched May 2018.

Cast: Robin Williams (Dr Sean Maguire), Matt Damon (Will), Ben Affleck (Chuckie), Minnie Driver (Skylar), Stellan Skarsgård (Professor Lambeau), John Mighton (Tom), Rachel Majorowski (Krystyn), Colleen McCauley (Cathy), Casey Affleck (Morgan), Cole Hauser (Billy)
Director: Gus Van Sant
My rating: 9.5 / 10

Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a genius, though he works as a janitor at MIT and spends his free time drinking with his friends, Chuckie (Ben Affleck), Billy (Cole Hauser), and Morgan (Casey Affleck).

However Will is discovered when Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård) posts a difficult mathematics problem as a challenge for his graduate students and Will solves the problem anonymously. Eventually Professor Lambeau works out Will is a naturally gifted genius at mathematics and attempts to mould Will into an academic.

At a bar, Will meets Skylar (Minnie Driver), a British woman about to graduate from Harvard College, who plans on attending medical school at Stanford and impresses her with his witty dialogue and takedown of a stuck up university student.

The next day Will gets into a fight taking down a gang that used to bully him. This leads to a court appearance where for once he can’t talk his way out of serious penalty. The judge offers Will to forgo jail time if he agrees to study mathematics under Professor Lambeau’s supervision and participate in therapy sessions.

Will ends up destroying all the therapists he is sent to with his insights until Professor Lambeau calls on his former college friend Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) who now teaches psychology. It takes many unproductive sessions before Dr Maguire can slowly breaks down Will’s defences. Will spends most of his time focusing on Dr Maguire’s relationship with his dead wife.

Skylar asks Will to move to California with her, but he refuses and tells her he is an orphan, and that his foster father physically abused him pushing her away as she opens up herself to him. At the same time Will blows up a major interview opportunity as he spirals out of control. Chuckie calls out Will for how not using his potential is insulting to those who have to do working class jobs.

Dr Maguire, after arguing with Professor Lambeau about people using their potential or looking for happiness, calls Will on his behaviour and attitude. Dr Maguire and Will eventually realise that they were both victims of child abuse. Will states Dr Maguire is now too scared to live his life, hiding in a sub par college teaching, with Dr Maguire replying that at least he played a hand.

When Will’s friends present him with a rebuilt classic Chevrolet for his birthday, he decides to pass on the military and Government job offers and instead drive to California to reunite with Skylar. Some time later, Chuckie goes to Will’s house to pick him up, only to find that he is not there, much to his happiness.

What’s to Like
The witty barter, the superb Robin Williams, the great and complex relationships from working class to the academic elite.

What’s not to Like

This is an incredible moving and emotional movie. When Robin Williams (Dr Maguire) keeps stating “It’s not your fault” repeatedly as an emotional Matt Damon (Will) keeps refusing to accepts obvious fact. Victims of abuse often put this on themselves and not the abuser.

While Minnie Driver only has a small role her character Skylar her role really stands out as the individual who accepts Will and offers the chance of a bright future but Will struggles accept her positive influence and love.

Will’s emotional struggles are the core of the movie which hurts his life despite Will’s amazing intelligent and unlimited potential. Will’s intellect actually becomes his shield and the thing that stops him from actually engaging on an emotional level.

This movie truely deserved it’s nine academy awards and two wins. The fact that both then struggling actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote this story, calling on some of their own personal experiences just adds to a brilliant movie.

Academy Awards

  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Robin Williams) – winner
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) – winner
  • Best Picture – nominee
  • Best Actor in a Leading Role (Matt Damon) – nominee
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Minnie Driver) – nominee
  • Best Director (Gus Van Sant) – nominee
  • Best Film Editing (Pietro Scalia) – nominee
  • Best Music, Original Song (Elliott Smith) – nominee
  • Best Music, Original Dramatic Score (Danny Elfman) – nominee

About Nathan

A World traveller who has so far experienced 71 countries (76 by June 2023) in this amazing world.
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