Who is Matt Damon? Is he stealthy assassin, Jason Bourne? Or maybe a proud-of-his-country rugby player from South Africa? For me, and many others, he is and always will be Will Hunting. I see Matt Damon and that is automatically who I envision. A role so perfectly executed, I struggle to picture Matt Damon as Matt Damon. It’s just one of those characters where you really believe Damon is a rough and tough kid from South Boston, (at least that’s what he’s made out to be) but behind all of his criminal charges, we see a man who is absolutely brilliant. A man who is so smart he shows up all of the students at MIT. Good Will Hunting is the perfect example of Hollywood excellence and goes above and beyond when it comes to making the story believable.
For some, this just isn’t their kind of movie. It can seem kind of slow at times and tends to go on and on about the same few things over and over throughout the whole movie. To some, this would make it boring. But even though the idea of a smart man, trying to be tamed by other smart people, while also trying to get the girl of his dreams, (who is also smart) can seem a bit boring and maybe even seem like a common theme in lots of movies, the script includes scenes to break up the main plot that are absolutely genius. Genius being the kind of scene that makes you want to get out of your seat and root for the character because they just proved everyone wrong, and everyone loves a good underdog scene.
As somewhat explained before, the main plot is this: a secretly brilliant janitor is “discovered” by a college professor, who then attempts to help said janitor reach his full potential. That’s the just of it, but it contains so much more. As I said, the script includes quite a few humorous scenes that provide relief from the serious tones of the movie. A favorite being the scene that takes place in the Harvard bars: Will and his pack of goons make their way to a Harvard bar and find a few ladies that they take interest in. Will’s friend Chuckie, played by Ben Affleck, tries flirting with the girls by lying and saying that he too goes to Harvard. It all goes south when a cocky and conceited Harvard student, named Clark, also tries impressing the girls. The tactic he uses is embarrassing Chuckie. He starts asking him all sorts of questions about the economy of the southern colonies prior to the Revolutionary War, a topic that is obviously way over Chuckie’s head. All hope seems lost until Will steps in. Sadly, based on social status, his upbringing, the friends he hangs out with, and the lack of a formal education, Will SHOULDN’T even be compared to a Harvard student! And this is the very moment that screams underdog. Although stereotyping could put Will into the category of “low intelligence”, he proves everyone wrong by going above and beyond to outsmart cocky Harvard jerk, Clark. The scene ends with Will saying:
“See the sad thing about a guy like you is in about 50 years you’re gonna start doing some thinking on your own and you’re gonna come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life. One, don’t do that. And two, you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a fuckin’ education you coulda got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the Public Library.”
This line is so on the spot in Will’s mind that it makes it 10 times better when he says it. That’s Will. He’s sarcastic and thinks of things so quickly other people don’t have time to get in any sort of comeback. A tremendous trait that adds so much personality to the character we all know and love.
Whether it be making up his broadcasts on the spot in Good Morning Vietnam or ad-libbing as the frosting on his face melted and dropped into a teacup in Mrs. Doubtfire, it’s obvious that Robin Williams was the KING of improvisation. However, I personally believe the well-known improvised scene in Good Will Hunting is one of his best moments. The scene starts with Matt Damon’s character, Will, talking to his therapist, Sean, who is portrayed by Robin Williams. Will goes on talking about how he really likes this girl he met, that she’s perfect, and he doesn’t want to call her because he’s scared it’s too good to be true. He’s scared that she’ll have flaws he hasn’t seen yet that will scare him off. Sean argues this by explaining that the flaws of those we love are what come to mind when we think of them; not all of the things that seem to make them “perfect”. The little quirks our loved ones have are what make them who they are and it’s what we remember most when they’re gone. This scene seems deep, (and it is), but what really makes it so great is the beauty of improvisation. While talking about all of these imperfections with Will, Sean says “My wife used to fart in her sleep” and goes off in a completely different direction before lassoing it back in to the true meaning of the scene. This scene is so successful because of the raw emotion we see. It strays away from the serious tone of the talk between Williams and Damon’s character and we see nothing but pure laughter. Laughter from both ends, but especially Damon since he wasn’t expecting this. You can tell nothing was faked or forced. That’s what I find so magical about this scene, and I applaud Williams because he seems to have a way of somehow improvising in every movie he does.
It’s been made clear in the media and through other sources, that foster care systems, group homes, and even adoption aren’t always the safest for the young kids that are in these situations. It’s a very common theme in movies, showing the bad side of system. We see it in movies like Short Term 12 and even Hotel for Dogs. Good Will Hunting tends to revolve around that topic as well. Though it’s not as easy to see, because we never actually see Will in a foster care situation, it’s still very prevalent. It’s prevalent because later on in the movie we realize that it’s what shaped Will into what and who he is today. Not the “wicked smart” man we see taking on challenging problems day by day, but the rough and tough boy from South Boston. It’s what made him so defensive, so willing to pick a fight with anyone who gets in his way or gets on his nerves. We see this through the ever so emotional scene between Will and his therapist. Williams’ character is looking through Will’s file when Will asks if he’s ever seen anything like that before, referring to pictures of Will in the file with bruises all over his body. Due to the fact that he’s a therapist, Sean of course replies yes. Will repeats the question and that’s when Sean knows he’s referring to a personal level. They then go back and forth sharing the horror stories of what their father or foster father would do, how they would beat them, and what they themselves would do in the situation. That on its own is pretty deep, but it gets even deeper. William’s character then goes on to say “It’s not your fault” multiple times. He says it once, then repeats it over and over again until Will actually takes it into consideration. That’s when we see Will break down.
Will finally felt like there was someone there for him, someone who truly cared about him. And because of that, he finally knows that none of his childhood nightmares were his fault. Will cries, hard, as he embraces Sean. A moment so heartbreaking yet touching, you don’t know whether to cry along with them or smile. This film has numerous scenes that pertain to the relationship between Will and the girl from the bar, Skylar, but the real love is in the friendship of Will and Sean. In the beginning of the movie, Professor Gerald Lambeau, the man who wants to “mentor” Will, tries finding him a therapist.
He calls up some of the best professors he knows, and Will being Will uses his smartass personality to scare them off. All hope seems lost until the professor calls up his roommate from college, Sean. He takes a different approach and sees through all of hogwash and sticks around. Will remains stubborn, but Sean takes his time and begins to see change. Will lets his wall down little by little and finally lets Sean in. Overtime, the relationship goes from a therapist talking to a patient, to friend talking to a friend. Different from the friendship he has with his buddies from home. Don’t get me wrong, his friends from South Boston are like brothers, but he can’t talk to them like he talks to Sean. He can’t open up to them about his life like he can to Sean. Yes, that certainly could be because Sean is a trained therapist, but it’s also because he actually cares. He formed a bond with Will that can’t be broken.
Art is seen through the eyes of many, but is interpreted based on opinion. What is considered art and what you believe to be art can vary, but to me art is anything that makes someone feel something. This movie is work of art because it does just that. It makes you laugh, it makes you want to cry, it makes you cheer for the underdog, and it makes you hate the villain. It makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger than just a movie. Like it’s a real-life story and you’re right alongside all of the other characters.
A movie isn’t a work of art when you leave the theater not talking about what you just witnessed. Good Will Hunting does that. You leave wondering. Wondering if Sean and Will will ever see each other again. Wondering if Will and Skylar will work out. And most of all, wondering if Will will really use his brain and get a big boy job or if he’s happy just being him and keeps it that way. I’ve noticed that artists like to do that. The director, the actors, the writer. They all want the audience to leave wondering what happens next. They want you to use your mind to come up with your own alternative ending. This drives me crazy. I always want to know the entire story and how things truly end, but I do see it as a form of art. It allows the audience to have an interactive experience. Just another way the viewer can feel like they’re apart of the film.
From the outside, a movie like this could be seen as boring. Some might read the summary on the back of the movie and immediately move on to find something better. But don’t judge a book by its cover. This movie is so much more than a paragraph long synopsis. You should watch it because the quality of acting that takes place is absolutely superb. You should watch it because it brings emotions out of you in every scene. You should watch it because it has a plot like no other movie. When you first hear what it’s about you think, “Smart kid who grew up in a rough part of town and didn’t have a great education? Sounds like a cliché.” But as you get farther along in the movie you’ll realize how different it is. It shows us that sometimes our destiny isn’t what we expect it to be. Our path in life sometimes requires us to step outside our comfort zone or take risks. This movie is more than just a cliché, it’s a work of art.