[Screen It]


(1997) (Matt Damon, Robin Williams) (R)

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Drama: A therapist tries to help a brilliant, but troubled young man overcome his personal problems and realize his potential.
Will Hunting (MATT DAMON) is a brilliant, but troubled twenty-year-old. Able to solve complex mathematical theorems nearly without thinking, Will is incredibly book smart, but also street tough. Having never left his hometown of South Boston, Will spends his days working as a janitor and his nights drinking and cavorting with his buddies Chuckie (BEN AFFLECK), Morgan (CASEY AFFLECK) and Billy (COLE HAUSER), and trying to impress Skylar (MINNIE DRIVER), a fourth year Harvard student.

When M.I.T. mathematics professor Lambeau (STELLAN SKARSGARD) discovers that Will has anonymously solved a math problem his own university students couldn't, he sets out to find this brilliant thinker. The problem is, Will's been thrown in jail for hitting a cop after being arrested for fighting. Lambeau goes out on a limb and arranges for Will to be let out under his supervision. The conditions are that he meet weekly with him to discuss mathematics as well as with a psychiatrist to discuss his personal problems.

After his cocky, smart-aleck attitude scares off other therapists, Lambeau turns to Sean McGuire (ROBIN WILLIAMS), his former college roommate and now a professor of psychology. Just as stubborn as Will, Sean works hard to get inside the prodigy's head. At the same time, Skylar tries to get inside his heart, and both hope the young man will fully realize his potential.

With the combined presence of new teen heartthrob Damon ("The Rainmaker"), co-stars Affleck ("Chasing Amy") and Driver ("Grosse Pointe Blank "), and big star Williams ("Flubber," "Good Morning, Vietnam), many teens will probably want to see this film.
For strong language, including some sex-related dialogue.
  • MATT DAMON plays a charismatic, brilliant young man, whose troubled past still haunts him. Because of that, he treats people outside his close circle of friends poorly, drinks, smokes and uses a great deal of profanity. By the end, however, he turns out to be an okay guy.
  • ROBIN WILLIAMS plays a caring counselor who wants to help Will. He curses a lot as well, but mainly in reaction to Will.
  • MINNIE DRIVER plays a woman who opens her heart to Will. Along the way she drinks a little, tells one dirty joke, and sleeps with him (not seen).
  • STELLAN SKARSGARD plays a bit of an intellectual snob, but for the most part he wants to see Will realize his potential as a mathematical genius.


    OUR TAKE: 9 out of 10
    The best feel good film of the year has arrived in the form of "Good Will Hunting," a moving, triumphant tale of two stubborn men whose therapeutic sessions together ultimately free them from their troubled pasts. Featuring award worthy performances, terrific direction and even better writing, the film is certain to be well represented come Oscar time and should be a big hit with audiences.

    The tale of how this story came to be is itself an extraordinary drama, and has now become legendary in its own right. Struggling performers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote the script years ago but refused to sell it unless they would appear in it as well. Forgoing huge sums of money, they stuck by the Stallone principle -- where Sly Stallone refused to give up the rights of "Rocky" unless he could star in the title role, and the rest, of course, is now history. Time will only tell whether the same will happen to these two young men, but Damon seems to have a career poised on the top of a rocket ship. After headlining Francis Ford Coppola's "The Rainmaker" and now this feature, he seems ready to conquer the world -- or at least Hollywood.

    Their screenplay is easily the best of the year, and features some of the best dialogue spoken by any film characters during the past decade. There are some minor, funny bits from Chuckie telling a friend he'll put his just purchased sandwich on lay-away until that friend comes up with some money, and a bit where Will approaches a condescending Harvard student (moments after devastating him in another fabulously written scene) and asks if he likes apples. The guy says that he does, and Damon then shows him Skylar's telephone number and says, "Well, I got her number. How do you like those apples?" Even the subtly written bits shine, such as the contrasting point that Lambeau teaches at M.I.T., while Sean teaches at Bunker Hill Community College.

    The film really takes off, however, in several key speeches delivered by the main characters. There's Sean's moving speech about Will knowing things (book smart), but not really knowing things (the real world and life experiences), and Chuckie's brief bit where he tells Sean his dreams for him (that finally come true). And a speeding, stream of consciousness monologue delivered by Will to some NSA officials about the repercussions of him accepting a code-breaking government job is outstanding. To reproduce them here in print would not only have been difficult (for some of them are long or quickly delivered), but also would be a disservice to their effectiveness on screen. To put it succinctly, they're often brilliant, usually funny, and occasionally emotionally devastating.

    Such a moving, intelligently written script is something every film maker hopes will land in their lap sometime during their career. Here, director Gus Van Sant is that lucky man. Known for his smart, but occasionally off the wall films ("To Die For," "Drugstore Cowboy"), this is certainly his most accessible feature and by far the most entertaining. Providing enough interesting and captivating shots to accompany the often lengthy speeches, Van Sant provides some nice touches to compliment the script.

    While the story is somewhat predictable -- the two men will be stubborn at first, then get to know each other, and ultimately be the source for the other's freedom -- it's the journey to that end that's fulfilling. Some of that obviously comes from the script, and Damon and Affleck have made sure even the most minor of characters have been"fleshed out" and are interesting in their own, small way. It's rare to see well-written characters across the board in a film, and having that here only makes this picture that much better.

    The other part of that journey is in getting to know the characters. No matter how well written, they won't fully come alive unless they're inhabited by talented performers. Luckily, this film is filled with a plethora of them and Damon and Williams are the obvious stand outs. Damon, who until his recent starring performance in "The Rainmaker" had only appeared as bit characters in various films, dominates the screen. His take on the troubled young man is simply outstanding. With a brilliant mix of street bravado and inherent smarts covering a sense of vulnerability, you can't help but be blown away by his performance. It's much better than his decent turn in "The Rainmaker," and should prove to be a huge stepping stone on his way up the Hollywood talent ladder.

    Williams, the terrific stand up comic-turned actor, is absolutely stunning. I've always thought he's faired better in dramatic roles, and his track record ("The World According to Garp," "Good Morning Vietnam, ""Dead Poets Society," and "Awakenings") certainly proves that point. While he has had some great success in purely humor driven movies, it's in those roles that showcase his more serious and subdued acting style that prove what a good actor he really is. Who would have guessed anyone would even think that after those early years of "Mork and Mindy?" Luckily for him and us, he was allowed to move into other genres. Here he brings such subtle nuances to this character that you not only feel for him, but you also feel that you've really come to know him.

    Also outstanding is Minnie Driver as the likeable, funny, and ultimately vulnerable Harvard student who opens her heart to Will only to have it crushed. Affleck, who was so charming in his leading role in this year's earlier small hit, "Chasing Amy," has a minor, but decent role as Will's best friend. The fact that these characters, and ones that only show up for a scene or two, pop off the screen and seem incredibly real is a testament to their acting as well as the strength of the script and Van Sant's direction.

    Although the movie is a bit over two hours long, it's one of those rare films you hate to see end. The characters are so interesting and dimensional, and the story is so well written and moving that you just want it to keep going. Of course, when a film makes you feel that way, it's succeeded at the highest level. This is quite simply one of the best movies of the year. Oscar nods should go to the film for Best Picture, Damon and Affleck for their screenplay, Damon for best Actor, and Williams and Driver for their supporting actor performances. If you want to see a brilliantly performed, exceptionally well-written movie that will make you laugh, bring a tear to your eye, and ultimately make you feel happy to be alive, then this film is for you. We highly recommend it, and thus give "Good Will Hunting" a 9 out of 10.

    The high amount of profanity will probably surprise people the most regarding this film. With nearly 140 "f" words and an assortment of others, the language is rather thick. Likewise, there are a few jokes and other sexually related comments that may be a bit strong for some viewers. Both smoking and drinking are quite abundant, as is the main character's cocky attitude toward others who try to help him. Beyond one fight scene and some talk of growing up with abusive fathers (not seen), the rest of the categories aren't too objectionable. If you don't mind the profanity and sexually based dialogue, you'll be in for quite a treat. Still, you should read through our scene listings just to make sure the film is appropriate for you or anyone in your family.

  • Will, Chuckie, and their friends often drink beer in bars and in other locations.
  • People drink wine and beer at a M.I.T. reception.
  • The guys drink beer from brown paper bags while watching a little league game.
  • Sean and Lambeau have wine with dinner.
  • Sean has been drinking liquor at night while thinking about his life.
  • Skylar drinks beer in a few scenes.
  • Sean has a beer in a bar.
  • Will's face is a little bloody after a fight, and the guy he was punching is more bloody.
  • Except for his tight circle of friends, Will has both toward nearly everyone else. He's often smug and condescending toward others (particularly the therapists who try to help him) and to both Sean and Skylar (the latter of whom he tells that he doesn't love, although he really does, which emotionally devastates her). He also has quite the long police list of infractions and criminal behavior (grand theft auto, assault, etc... none that we see).
  • The guys comment that a woman has "a nice ass."
  • Will rushes up and starts a fight with a guy he says tormented him years ago in school.
  • A Harvard student has a condescendingly bad attitude toward Chuckie.
  • Lambeau has a bit of a condescending attitude toward Sean.
  • Some viewers may find scenes listed under "Violence" as tense, but they are minor at worst.
  • None.
  • Phrases: "Bang," "Laid," "Blow job," "Jerk off," and "Hump" (all used sexually), "Bitch" (not toward women, but what the guys call other men), "Guinea," "Douche bag," "Retard," "Shut up," "Idiot," "Freak," "Retarded," "Piss ant," "Pissing," "Wiener" (for male genitals), "Balls" (testicles), "Sucks," and "Kiss ass."
  • Chuckie and another character spit onto the street in different scenes.
  • None.
  • There are just a few moments where just a bit of ominous sounding music plays.
  • None.
  • At least 139 "f" words (3 used with "mother"), 29 "s" words, 7 slang terms for male genitals (the "d" and "p" words and "wiener"), 1 slang term for female genitals (the "p" word), 18 asses (3 used with "hole"), 3 damns, 1 S.O.B., 1 crap, 1 hell, and 7 uses of "Oh God," 2 uses each of "Christ," "Jesus Christ," "Swear to God," and 1 use each of "G-damn," "For God's sakes," "Jesus," "Oh Christ," and "For Christ's sakes" as exclamations.
  • Chuckie asks a woman in a bar why he isn't seeing any "hootchie kootchie" from her. She replies that she's not going to "spread my legs for your tootsie roll."
  • Will asks an older male psychiatrist, "Do you find it hard to hide that you're gay?" When the man acts surprised, Will adds, "A couple of minutes ago you were about to give me a jump."
  • Will sings some lyrics from the song "Afternoon Delight" to a psychiatrist, "We can make a lot of love before the sound goes down. Skyrockets in flight. Afternoon delight."
  • Sean jokes about if patients don't trust you, "how are you ever going to get them to sleep with you?"
  • When Skylar comments that Will was probably hoping to get a goodnight kiss, he responds, "I was hoping to get a goodnight lay."
  • The guys trade some insults with one of them saying, "Get off mothers" (the subject) and then one of them says, "I just got off yours."
  • Will tells a joke where a pilot says that all he needs is "a blow job and a cup of coffee."
  • Will tells Sean in one of his sessions, "I have been laid."
  • Skylar tells Will, "I won't let you sleep with me again until I meet your friends." He then immediately dials one of them on the phone, and she comments that if men aren't controlled by their "weiner," then they're acting on behalf of it.
  • Later, they passionately kiss, and he also has his head in her lap or crotch (but doesn't appear to be doing anything sexual).
  • Skylar tells a joke about a couple married for fifty years where the husband asks for "a blow job." The wife complies, and when the husband asks if he can do anything for her, she says, "Give me a kiss," and Skylar visually finishes the joke by spilling beer out of her mouth (as if it were semen) while saying that line.
  • Chuckie yells up to Morgan that he better not be watching porno films in his mother's bedroom. Morgan then appears and they make some comments about him masturbating ("jerking off").
  • Will smokes quite often throughout the film, as does Chuckie.
  • Several other minor characters smoke as well.
  • We learn that Will grew up in a foster home and was beaten by his father (not seen).
  • Likewise, Sean also had an abusive father (not seen).
  • Sean is still dealing with the death of his wife two years ago from cancer.
  • We learn that Skylar's father died when she was thirteen (that's briefly talked about).
  • Overcoming a troubled past and getting on with your life.
  • Not throwing away self-potential.
  • Will rushes up and punches a guy who allegedly tormented him in school years ago. Chuckie and the others then join him and fight with this other guy's friends, and many punches are thrown. Will ends up mercilessly beating the first guy and then hits a cop as he's arrested by the police (who then hit him with a billy club).
  • After Will has made a disparaging remark about Sean's deceased wife, Sean pushes him against a wall and grabs him by the throat.

  • Reviewed December 17, 1997

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