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"Good Will Hunting" Review

With its biting humor melded excellently with its smart and heart-wrenching conflict, Good Will Hunting becomes a magnum opus for its director, actors, and the film’s two virtually unknown writers and stars of the movie, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. When it first was released in 1997, the reviews were mixed. Some critics doubted that the movie was anything other than a squalid attempt from two young and inexperienced screenwriters, while others praised the film for its realism, intellect, and fluid dialogue. The film itself is nothing short of a modern day masterpiece.

When I watch a film, I always look for five aspects of the film that I use to judge. It is very important to me that the film speaks to me in some way, and however cliché it may sound, I love it when a film pulls at my heartstrings. It is hard for me to enjoy a film if there isn’t a character that I can relate to, whether it's the character encountering the same experiences or just in some abstract way reminds me of myself. The plot and situations must be captivating, because without an interesting storyline, the film falls flat and the filmmakers lose their captive audience. Being a playwright myself, I always listen carefully to the dialogue. Witty dialogue is crucial in my liking a film. The wit is most often humorous, but having wit within more serious dialogue is nothing short of brilliant. Finally, there are no movies that I feel strongly about that do not include some sort of metaphoric cinematography that only enhances the nuances in the film.

One critic in particular, James Berardinelli, claims that the Good Will Hunting “is not a groundbreaking piece of literature, and occasionally resorts to shameless manipulation”. I emphatically disagree with his statement, and his argument has no literary examples to back up his claim. I found myself getting immersed in the story and finding it extremely relateable. Even though all of the experiences that Will encounters I have never personally experienced, I related to his struggle to find himself and figure out what he wants to do with his life. That point in the plot is something that many people can relate to, and is in no way manipulating the audience into emoting while watching the film.

Will Hunting, played luminously by the films author, Matt Damon, is a clever portrayal of a shamelessly dry, inordinately cocky genius. When we first meet Will, he is cleaning the floors of the math and science wing of MIT, where he is discovered by Prof. Gerald Lambeau proving a theorem on a corridor blackboard. A delinquent Will has been arrested for a varied assortment of crimes including assault, grand larceny, and impersonating an officer. When Lambeau learns of Will’s gift for mathematics, he strikes up a deal with him, trading his freedom for sessions of math and sessions of therapy with Lambeau’s college roommate, Sean McGuire. The strong relationship that Will develops with Sean forces him to confront serious and disturbing areas in his childhood, such as being abused by his foster parents, and ultimately leads to a final epiphany of how to be truly happy, how to love, and how to accept love.

From the get-go, one senses that the character of Will is in fact homage to the authors themselves. Damon, who was attending Harvard University at the time that he began the screenplay, no doubt faced some of the indecisiveness that his character faced. Not so apparent in the actor/screenwriter is Will’s scarcity of close relationships. Emotionally abandoned by his family, he finds family in his “retarded gorilla” friends, the most prevalent Chuckie (played by co-author Affleck) and also a budding romance with pre-med Harvard heiress Skylar (played by the infectious Minnie Driver) . All of the relationships are believable, and one finds it hard not to relate to the hard life of Will Hunting. Will’s hard-as-nails demeanor is offset by his underlying vulnerabi

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