Thursday, August 11, 2011

Remembering Good Will Hunting

Sometimes late at night, after everyone has gone to bed, I get a chance to sit and watch TV. Usually this takes the form of a baseball or basketball game (or highlights of the night's sports action). Every once in awhile I will flip to a film I have seen a hundred times before (The "Shawshank Redemption" or "Ocean's Eleven" are popular ones on TV right now). Tonight, it was "Good Will Hunting". I hadn't seen it in it's entirety in a long time but I was captivated once more.

For those who may have forgotten, the film centers around the troubled Will Hunting, a genius struggling with various psychological issues. The central character, after getting into trouble with the law, is mandated into counseling where he meets Sean Maguire, a somewhat troubled in his own right psychology professor. Together they strive to get Will moving ahead with his life and attempt to reach his seemingly limitless potential.

Two things struck me about watching the film again. First, the acting is tremendous. It's hard to remember that when the film was made in 1997 both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were relative unknowns. A lot was made of the fact that they wrote the script (which won an Oscar), but their acting in the film was as genuine and authentic as I can recall. These were characters that they knew so well, that it stopped being acting and became living as these people. Robin Williams, who also won an Oscar as Maguire, was a revelation in subtlety as a grieving man who sees a bit of himself in Will. The relationship between the two is so rich and detailed, it was clear the actors enjoyed working together even through the darkest of dialogue patches.

The other aspect that hit me was how perfect ELLIOT SMITH's music was a running soundtrack for the film. Smith, himself a troubled young man who suffered from depression and died at age 34 of apparent suicide, uses his hushed vocals and acoustic guitar as a means of giving the film emotional depth. "Angeles" and "Between The Bars" and "Say Yes" float into the film to give us a connection to Will as he tries to relate to people in new and sometimes painful ways. By the end of the film, as Will leaves Boston to chase down the girl he has fallen for over the course of the movie, Smith delivers his tour-de-force gem "Miss Misery". In a way the song exemplifies the character and the film itself. It's a song of both hope and despair as the singer details how he's trying to just make it through the day.

It's not often that a film ages well. Actors get older and we remember them for newer roles. Damon and Affleck have both gone on to bigger fame (both in and out of acting). Williams will always be a comedian at heart. Minnie Driver, who plays Will's girlfriend, has graduated to adult roles that have robbed her of her charm. But for one night, I was re-introduced to the world of Good Will Hunting. I can't think of a better reason to stay up late.

1 comment:

janie said...

boy was i relieved that you mentioned elliott smith. that man was a genius. rest in peace mr. smith. :)