In the midst of Titanic, when people are experiencing three hours of mixed emotions, there is Good Will Hunting. The leading opposition for Best Picture in the Oscars, Good Will Hunting isn't Titanic, meaning it doesn't have (nor does it require) spectacular graphics, warm characters, or a breathtaking finale. On the other hand, it is a true piece of art in the dramatic sense, a realistic movie set in present time where the characters aren't perfect and the romance isn't "love at first sight."
We are given a cast of characters, most notably Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Robin Williams, and Minnie Driver. Damon, of course, is Will Hunting, and if Jack Nicholson hadn't done such an extraordinary job in As Good as it Gets, he would have won the Oscar for Best Actor without a second's hesitation. His dialogue, body language, emotions (or lack there of) are superb and not once do you get the suggestion that Will Hunting was Hollywoodized; he is not perfect. You can tell he has warmth within him but he's still a jerk, and a bastard, which sometimes makes it hard to feel for him. In some parts, he was likable, and in others, there is no reason why anyone should feel sorry for him.
Who you do feel sorry for is Minnie Driver's character, Hunting's troubled girlfriend. She loves him and he loves her, but, afraid to announce his feelings, shuts her out without thought. Driver's emotions run freely in Good Will Hunting and it probably would have been better if there had been more of her in the movie. That was the main problem... All the characters, including Will, were surface only (with the exception being Robin Williams). A good drama needs good characterization, and, while you did get a feel of what each person are like, their pasts remain unexplored. However, as mentioned earlier, Robin Williams (Best Supporting Actor for 1997) was an exception and luckily, giving his best performance ever, gave Good Will Hunting an extra boost. His persona was so essential to the foundation of the film that even the slightest change in character or actor would have drastically affected the movie.
Good Will Hunting is a well-done movie but fails to capture my attention in the long run. It deserves to be recognized, and is better to be seen the second time around, but is not something that one would wish to watch over and over again.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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