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Good Will Hunting(1997)
Although gifted with a brilliant mind, a young South Boston man can only find work as a janitor. When his lack of anger management lands him in court yet again, a judge orders the man to see a psychologist, who tries to help him find direction in his life.
For more about Good Will Hunting and the Good Will Hunting Blu-ray release, see Good Will Hunting Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on August 21, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver, Stellan Skarsgård, Casey Affleck
Director: Gus Van Sant
» See full cast & crew
Good Will Hunting Blu-ray Review
Southie Side Story.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, August 21, 2011
Portland, Oregon probably doesn't strike most of you as a bulwark of the film industry, but this "most European" of the larger west coast cities has slowly but surely built its reputation over the past few decades so that it has become not just a regular production location, it has also become home to an increasing number of stars and high profile behind the scenes personnel. Portland's prestige got a major shot in the arm in the 1990's when local boy Gus Van Sant set the indie world afire with Drugstore Cowboy, a film which seemed to suggest that Matt Dillon had unexpected depth behind those wounded eyes and sullen affect. Two years later Van Sant did similar duty with River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves in My Own Private Idaho, but it wasn't until 1997's Good Will Hunting that Van Sant really broke through into mainstream success. Once again he was working with young, largely unknown actors, and once again he crafted star making performances, in this case by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who also had the good sense to write great roles for themselves. But perhaps Van Sant's greatest accomplishment, performance wise anyway, was reigning in the mercurial tsunami of energy that is Robin Williams. While other directors, notably Terry Gilliam, had been able to capture the depth and nuance of Williams and to tame his manic tendencies, Van Sant somehow managed to get Williams to simply breathe, to take his time, relax, and let the writing inform the performance rather than vice versa. Much like Good Will Hunting made (or, really, established) Van Sant as the home town hero of Portland (my home town, as a matter of fact), the film did similar duty for Boston's Damon and Affleck, two struggling actors who were sick of looking for work and decided to do something about it, namely writing their own screenplay which offered them both the best roles of their then nascent careers. Something about Good Will Hunting was golden seemingly from day one, and the film became a perhaps surprising box office smash, cementing Damon and Affleck as two of their generation's most promising leading men, giving Williams a mid-career boost, and making Van Sant one of the most celebrated directors in the world. But has the film held up over the intervening years?
In a nutshell: yes. A critical reassessment of Good Will Hunting seemed to spring up in the wake of the screenplay Oscar going to Damon and Affleck, seeming to cap a Happily Ever After story for two young up and comers that had the typical expected result of a backlash, supposedly undercutting what made Good Will Hunting such a sensation to begin with. The reassessment only got worse with the added success of Damon and Affleck as glamorous leading men, which seemed to fly in the face of their performances in this film as working class grunts, despite the fact that Will Hunting (Damon) is an intellectual diamond in the rough, an undiscovered genius who is working as a janitor at MIT and just happens to solve an "unsolvable" formula a demanding professor named Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård) has posted in a hallway as a sort of taunt to his students. Despite Good Will Hunting's own formulas (pun intended), time has actually been quite kind to the film, and the pendulum may now be swinging back to something more in tune with the original reaction to the film.
Brilliantly talented geniuses who are wasting their lives away have been a filmic staple at least since the halcyon days of the Golden Age of Hollywood, when films like Golden Boy riffed on the idea, in that case with a typical Odetsian Art vs. Commerce subtext. But it's to Good Will Hunting's credit that it takes certain established stereotypes—the decent if misguided brash young man, the calm if emotionally wounded therapist—and slightly skews them for a post-modern age. Good Will Hunting also viscerally creates the working class ethos of "Southies," the blue collar guys from the south side of Boston who worship the Sox and have an almost ritualistic attachment to nights out drinking with the boys. Will is a weird sort of hybrid, still "one of the guys," but obviously cut from a much more intelligent cloth that could give him untold opportunities if only he would straighten himself out and take advantage of them.
The film rather unobtrusively sets up its characters, giving little if any backstory right off the bat, and instead letting the dialogue establish who both the working stiffs and the high falutin' professors are. Will solves the problem but is soon involved in a street brawl that finds him about to be incarcerated, when Lambeau's detective work finally tracks him down. Lambeau intervenes with the court and Will is given one last chance to set his rap sheet right: he must engage in a meeting of math minds with Lambeau and he must also attend regular therapy sessions to try to uncover what is provoking his not so latent rage. That sets up the major relationship of the film, that between Will and therapist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), a guy Lambeau comes to in desperation after Will makes mincemeat out of a series of other therapists (in one of the film's funnier sequences). Sean is another Southie whom Lambeau thinks can speak Will's language and break through Will's defiance and denial.
Playing out against Will's brush with greatness is his relationship with his buddies, chiefly his best friend Chuckie (Ben Affleck). In fact it's the twin friendships between Chuckie and Sean that creates the very firm three legged stool which provides Good Will Hunting its solid foundation. While Lambeau is trying to get Will to realize he's a perhaps heretofore unseen math phenomenon, Will slowly but surely opens up to Sean, who wants Will to follow his heart (including a budding romance with a girl named Skylar, played by Minnie Driver) not necessarily some mathematical brass ring, while realizing this new life will probably remove him from his comfortable social circle with Chuckie and his other buddies. There's incredible emotional honesty in the writing and performances here, even if there is a certain cliché-ridden aspect to some of the situations, and without spoiling anything, the two strongest moments of the film come late in the day when Chuckie calmly lambasts Will for not realizing what he's got going for him and then Sean repeats a certain phrase almost like a mantra which finally leads Will to an emotional catharsis.
Good Will Hunting's title is obviously a play on words, but an apt one. Will is at his core a good guy, despite having lived a life of turmoil and disappointment, resulting in an emotionally stunted approach that Sean attempts to overcome. But Will and Sean are peas in a pod in another way—they're both on the hunt for some "good will," compassion and understanding. It's interesting therefore that the film ends with both of these characters about to undertake travels, as if the quest itself can provide some measure of healing.
The triumph of this film is that it has its own good will, a decentness of heart and fullness of emotion that Van Sant never squanders with tricks or flash. In fact, this is an almost oddly understated film virtually every step of the way, and that is how the film is able to create such incredible emotional intensity as it winds toward its denouement. While Damon and Affleck the screenwriters don't completely evade the minefield of "wounded genius" cliché in Good Will Hunting, the good news is they're aided immeasurably by Damon and Affleck the actors, as well as Williams in probably his finest work and a sure guiding hand from Van Sant. Good will abounds in Good Will Hunting, and for once that Hollywood Happy Ending, both within and outside of the film, is well deserved.
Good Will Hunting Blu-ray, Video Quality
Good Will Hunting arrives on Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.84:1. The image here has some of the hallmarks of Van Sant's less mainstream, indie efforts, with Jean-Yves Escoffier's beautiful cinematography favoring low light and a generally less than glamorous ambience. That said, the Blu-ray looks brilliantly sharp most of the time, with extremely well saturated color and excellent fine detail. A lot of the film plays out in gorgeous lush golden tones, and the Blu-ray captures that yellow end of the spectrum magnificently. The Boston locations also look incredible, with good depth of field and some wonderful variations in natural light wafting across the image. There are some very minor issues with crush in some of the darkest scenes (the famous showdown scene in the bar has a few problems with shadow detail), but otherwise this is a very good looking transfer that should delight the film's many fans.
Good Will Hunting Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Good Will Hunting is granted a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix which may strike some as a bit of overkill considering the film's small scale, dialogue driven ambitions. But there is sporadic and effective surround activity here, with fairly consistent ambient environmental effects dotting the soundfield, and some more boisterous activity in some of the group scenes that spill into the side and rear channels. Danny Elfman's gorgeous and rather atypically lyrical score also sounds magnificent here, as does Elliot Smith's plaintive "Miss Misery." (Smith is another hometown Portland hero who unfortunately committed suicide a few years after the film's release). Balance between score, effects and dialogue is strong, and while this isn't the most immersive track in history, it's very artfully done and quite subtly effective.
Good Will Hunting Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Good Will Hunting Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I was frankly more than a little trepidatious to revisit Good Will Hunting after several years, as I had very fond memories of it but feared it hadn't aged very well. It was quite a relief, then, to find that the film still has abundant heart and good humor and also undeniable emotional impact, especially as it builds toward its three-hankie climax. Performances here are brilliant all around, and Van Sant has probably never had a finer directorial achievement than this film. The Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic, and Good Will Hunting comes Highly recommended.
Good Will Hunting: Other Editions
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Good Will Hunting Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: August 30 - September 5 - August 30, 2011
The easiest way to judge how much a film impacted moviegoers is to measure how many years outside of its release it can be successfully referenced by primetime television. Good Will Hunting, which is out today on Blu-ray, just happens to be one of those films that ...
• Good Will Hunting Blu-ray - June 14, 2011
Lionsgate Films will release Miramax's Academy Award-winning Good Will Hunting on Blu-ray this summer. Directed by Gus Van Sant (Milk), Good Will Hunting tells the story of Will Hunting (Matt Damon, Rounders), a blue-collar janitor whose hidden mathematical brilliance ...
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