We revisit the film that made Matt Damon and Ben Affleck household names
“Good Will Hunting” Celebrates 21st Anniversary Today
Released on December 2, 1997, and was directed by Gus Van Sant, this film is a high-powered drama about a young man who is a genius, but who is also wracked by self-defeating emotional turmoil. This film reaffirms the arrival of the star, Matt Damon (who also co-wrote the script), as the hottest young star in Hollywood in the late 90’s. Damon, who also gave a fine performance as Rudy Baylor in “The Rainmaker” gives an even better performance as Will Hunting. The other co-author of the script, Ben Affleck, plays Hunting’s best friend in the film. The story takes place in Boston, which is where Damon and Affleck grew up together, and the place really comes across in the film. It’s not the Boston most people are familiar with, the Boston Common, the Charles River and the famous attractions. Instead, much of action takes place in the grittiness of “Southie,” or South Boston, shrouded in lower-middle-class desperation. The only concession to popular tourist attractions is an overhead shot of Fenway Park with that famous Citgo sign nearby. Hunting works as a janitor at MIT. He is in trouble with the law, getting into street and bar brawls. One day at work, he solves a complex mathematical problem left on a blackboard. A professor discovers his incredible intellect and rescues him from a jail stint for assault. In return for his probation, he must get counseling. After some funny scenes where he disposes of some psychiatrists by psychoanalyzing them, he finally meets his match with Sean McGuire played by the late Robin Williams, a psychiatrist who grew up in his old neighborhood. McGuire is just as tough as Hunting and is smart enough to see through his defenses.Hunting also meets and falls in love with Skylar played by Minnie Driver of “Grosse Pointe Blank” and “Circle of Friends”. Gradually McGuire and Skylar begin to lower Hunting’s defenses until a crisis of courage is reached. In the process of healing Hunting, McGuire is also healed. McGuire has to reveal much of himself to Hunting in order to get his trust. The screenplay by Damon and Affleck is very smart, funny and emotionally moving. All of the performances are powerful. The only point where the film fell down a bit was at the end. It just didn’t seem to know when to quit, and the screenwriters seemed preoccupied with fixing up every single problem that arose in the story. Nevertheless, it was one of the 1997 best films. The film grossed over US$225 million during its theatrical run with only a modest $10 million budget. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture, and won two: Best Supporting Actor for Williams and Best Original Screenplay for Affleck and Damon.
Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Starring: Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck
Watch the original 1997 trailer for “Good Will Hunting”
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