Good Will Hunting (1997)
Dir: Gus Van Sant
“Do you like apples?”…
Well, Will Hunting is a janitor at the prestigious MIT, with little in the way of a formal education he’s mostly self-educated by reading widely and has a natural aptitude especially with Mathematics. When Will solves a mathematical challenge set for the students, a professor decides to mentor him while also getting him the therapy mandated by the courts.
Written by the stars Matt Damon (who plays the eponymous Will Hunting) and Ben Affleck (who plays his best friend), this gained them the Academy Award for best original screenplay. Quite deservedly so, it’s a very well composed film, though it plays things straight not really taking any unforeseeable directions, the story is told with great skill as all the characters are fully rounded out, everyone needed and none are wasted.
The biggest strength to this is in the casting. I am guessing that Damon and Affleck wrote it with themselves in mind and so there’s little to be said about their respective roles except that they suit them and work well. It’s the casting of Stellan Skarsgård (the mentoring professor) and Robin Williams (Will’s therapist) that make the film come together. Their characters are the catalysts in the story, that get Will out of the un-fulfilling position he’s in. Skarsgård is perfectly suited to play a professor, especially one as written in this case, and I would rather watch him in a role like this than singing in Mamma Mia any day.
Robin Williams is so often thought of as a comic actor, and certainly he is a funny man, but his best work is by far when he’s challenged with a role that asks for more. Sean Maguire s not just an archetypal therapist, but rather a man with complex issues of his own, and has stepped back from seeing patients and into teaching in a community college. It’s the developing relationship between the two, both professional and personal, that really provides the best of this film and why it has become so well-regarded.
… “How d’ya like them apples?”