Flashback to ‘Good Will Hunting’ (1997): “My boy’s wicked smart.” So’s this movie.

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December 21, 2013 by Hope W.

Robin Williams as Sean Maguire and Matt Damon as Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting

Robin Williams as Sean Maguire and Matt Damon as Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting

Borrowed a few movies from the library a few days ago. The library@esplanade has a great collection — from classics all the way to fairly new titles, documentaries, foreign films, and even a small but growing Blu-ray section — so there’s really no need to rent DVDs anymore, for people who still do that.

Started off with Good Will Hunting, which was nominated for nine Oscars and won for Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay. It’s about a cocky math prodigy, Will Hunting (Matt Damon), who lives a delinquent life in South Boston, but absorbs books in his spare time when he’s not hanging out with his fellow loafing friends played by Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck and Cole Hauser. His genius is discovered by an MIT professor (Stellan Skarsgård), who gets him out of prison in exchange for math tutoring with him and mandatory sessions with therapist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams).

The first thing that struck me is how young everybody was. Ben Affleck, who plays Chuckie, Will Hunting’s friend, looked so smarmy back then. Matt Damon is baby-faced. I miss the Robin Williams who used to do fairly good movies, because his heartfelt performance as the therapist still mourning for his wife two years after her death is great, and earned him his first and only Oscar win to date. He hasn’t had such a good role in years. Minnie Driver isn’t pretty, but I love her accent. According to IMDb trivia, Harvey Weinstein didn’t want her for the part of Skylar, Will Hunting’s girlfriend, because she wasn’t cute enough, but director Gus Van Sant, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon wanted her, so he relented. (She got nominated for Best Supporting Actress, so they were right.)

The script is very smart in the way it puts down pseudo-intellectuals while reflecting class differences in society. Even more impressively, it was written by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon when they were just 21 and 23, and already reflects the political inclinations that Matt Damon, if not Ben Affleck, champion today. Will’s speech on why he shouldn’t work for the NSA is just brilliant; and Matt Damon did it in one take, which makes it even better.

Plus, what makes Will so root-able for is that he’s a genius, but he doesn’t throw that fact in people’s faces. When he puts down that snobbish Harvard elitist in the beginning of the film, it’s one of those “hell yeah!” underdog moments. While I’m not fond of guys like Ben Affleck’s character who, at that time, was pretending to be someone he’s not to pick up chicks, I can’t stand pretentious patronisers even more. Unfortunately, I am not as smart as Will to know what kind of bullshit they are regurgitating, so I can’t give a smackdown rebuttal like he did, but I definitely try to stay far away from people who have delusions of their own superiority.

There are just too many great scenes to name. When Sean tells Will why his opinions aren’t worth anything, despite seemingly being able to read into him just from one of Sean’s paintings, because all his knowledge is book knowledge, but he hasn’t lived those experiences for himself yet. When Will explains to Skylar that whenever he sees numbers and things like that, he could always “just play”. When Sean describes the circumstances in which he met his wife. When Sean tells Will that it’s not his fault. Even the scene between Stellan Skarsgård and Robin Williams in the bar talking about Will’s potential. And so on and so forth.

And when Matt Damon and Ben Affleck won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay? They were so excited, and so their age at that moment (27 and 25 respectively), it’s freaking adorable. I hope they work together again some day. They’re best friends after all; it’s surprising they haven’t teamed up again since then.

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