191 - Good Will Hunting (1997)

A gifted janitor needs direction.

Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a janitor at MIT and has a gift for being able to decipher the most difficult of mathematics challenges. A lecturer at the University, Prof. Gerald Lambeau (Stellen Skarsgård), notices Will's talent and tries to mould Will into the ideal pupil.

Will is forced to attend Lambeau's lectures and attend sessions with psychologist Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) as part of his reform having been caught fighting. Will pushes back against the system that abandoned him as a child, but Sean doesn't want to give up so easily.

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
Despite having never really paid much attention to either film, I used to get Good Will Hunting mixed up with Dead Poets Society. I think my ignorance can be forgiven though - both are highly rated on IMDb and both contain pupils under the unorthodox guidance of Robin Williams. Anyway, that's besides the point of this review.

When it comes to the end of his career, Robin Williams will often be remembered for his stints in comedy and his ability to form the most bizarre voices - all on display in Mrs. Doubtfire. It is easy to forget that he is so diverse that he has played Peter Pan, a 200-year-old robot and a cartoon genie.

So for him to appear as a caring psychiatrist in Good Will Hunting perhaps isn't that bizarre after all - out of all of his films, this is the one that earned him his only Academy Award. He does well to shunt aside his various famous roles to take on a far more serious and emotion-filled role.

But this isn't Williams' film. Penned by Matt Damon (who looked like the missing member of any generic 1990's boy band) and Ben Affleck (who looked, well, normal), Good Will Hunting is famous for the doubt that two young men could write the screenplay to such a film. On the other hand, the Academy had no doubt, jointly awarding the two of them the Oscar for Best Screenplay.

Rather than laying low they both took acting roles within the film. Damon became Will Hunting - a misunderstood janitor whose morals are definitely there albeit a bit skewed. Affleck took the relatively minor role of Will's friend Chuckie Sullivan. They were joined by Minnie Driver as Will's girlfriend Skylar - who went on to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the same time.

The film's success is that it doesn't victimise any of the protagonists. Will sees his unseen gift as a hindrance to a friendship that he values more than his own life, while Chuckie only ever wishes the best for his friend. Despite hardships in his life, Dr. Maguire is shown to have moved on rather than dwelling on the past. The only 'bad guy' of the film is Professor Lambeau.

There is emotion in bundles and the film never shies away from this. It just goes to prove that grown men can cry, and no matter how hard people may look on the face of it, there could be someone completely different and vulnerable underneath.



  1. I think Robin Williams is a lot better in serious roles than comedy. He should really stick to those instead of those easy paycheck movies like "RV" and such.

    1. I enjoy some of Williams comedy. Mrs. Doubtfire is great, in my opinion. Aladdin's genie was also one of his best roles.

      But yes, he shouldn't sell himself out.

  2. This movie earns a huge "Bravo!" from me. I thought it was amazingly written and acted by all involved. Williams was terrific and justly deserved the Oscar. Great review.

    1. As always Chuck, thanks for your kind words.

      I agree, the film was great.

  3. At one point (and I think it was pointed out during the release of this film), it was noted that Williams has a beard for all of his dramatic roles, and no beard for his comedic ones. Later, as he struggled to remain relevant, he started forgoing the beard in the dramatic roles (Insomnia, One Hour Photo), and now he's not really doing a lot of movies at all. Clearly he still loves doing comedy, but he's having a harder time selling himself than ever before. Or maybe he's just taking a break.

    He has a better dramatic role in Awakenings. He sports a beard in it.

    1. I can't say I noticed the beard thing but now that you've mentioned it I think you're spot on.

      That said, there is no beard in the not-overdone-comedy of Hook :)


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