REVIEW #200 - Robin Williams and Matt Damon in "Goodwill Hunting"

Review #200
The Golden Side of Robin Williams


Combining the landmark 200th review and the current Robin Williams tribute, I've chosen one of my all-time favorite movies in "Goodwill Hunting".  The film was not only the breakout party for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, but it earned Robin his only Academy Award.  In all the movie was nominated for 9 Oscars, winning 2.  It is currently ranked #128 in IMDb's list of the greatest movies of all-time.  Directed by Gus Van Sant, "Goodwill Hunting" managed to be one of those small films that hit it big in every possible way.

Will Hunting is a young working-class genius living in South Boston.  He is however troubled and prone to fits of anger.  He spends his days mopping the floors at MIT and his nights drinking at a local bar with his friends.  Chucky (Ben Affleck), Morgan (Casey Affleck) and Billy (Cole Hauser).  Will has an amazing mind for mathematics that is in danger of going to waste if he doesn't straighten out his life.  While at his duties at MIT he anonymously solves a proof that was meant as a supreme challenge to the students of Professor Gerald Lambeau class.  Lambeau becomes aware of Will's brilliance and is intrigued.  Meanwhile, Will and his friends instigate a nasty brawl with some guys from the neighbor and Will ends up hitting a police officer.  While in court he rattles off all kinds of legal jargon and precedent-setting cases that have gotten him off before but this time the judge won't hear of it.  Professor Lambeau comes to the rescue and saves him from any jail time, but he must help him will mathematical theories and worst of all see a psychiatrist.  The psychiatrist scenes are hilarious as Will plays the consummate smart ass.  He can deconstruct anybody in the blink of an eye and have them running for the exits in no time.  When worst comes to worst Lambeau brings him to an old college friend of his who now works at a community college.  His name is Sean Maguire.

Like all the others before him upon their introduction, Will cuts deep to the core a Sean.  When he makes comments about Sean's recently deceased wife, he puts a hand to Will's throat and threatens him.  Despite his anger, Sean wants to see him again.  Hailing from the same neighborhood he is determined to help him sort his life out, while along the way helping to sort out his.  On their second meeting, they go to a pond and Sean has a big monologue about love and life experience.  Even though Will is so smart "You can't learn everything from books".  Sean works at bringing down the walls that keep Will a prisoner in his own mind.

Back with Chucky and the gang, Will meets Skylar (Minne Driver) at a bar outside Harvard and he is immediately smitten.  Although Will never allows himself to be open and vulnerable to anyone, Skylar could be the one to break through his thick exterior.  Things are going great until Skylar's plans to move to California force will to make a tough decision he is not ready for.  This happens all while he is making good progress in his sessions with Sean.  Will opens up and respects Sean, he gets the father figure and mentor he has been sorely looking for while Sean gets the son he never had.  They are both lonely men.  Sean and Lambeau meet frequently but have vastly different opinions about how to care for the boy.  Each has their own theories but is it in the best interest of Will of themselves?

Even after this progress Will is reluctant to change and it takes a push from Chucky to break free and make something of his life.  Put best by Chucky "You have a winning lottery ticket, but are too much of a pussy to cash it in".  To make something of himself Will must leave his small and secure surroundings.  In one of their last sessions Sean having gained Will's trust and respect digs deep into Will's past and confronts him about his fathers abuse and how he was also abused as a child.  This breakthrough allows both men to turn the page and start the next chapter in their lives.  Will decides to search out Skylar in California, while Sean decides to take some time off and travel.

"Goodwill Hunting" is funny, heartfelt, and just plain amazing.  It also wouldn't be the same without the haunting and beautiful songs by the late Elliott Smith. The closing song "Miss Misery" got an Oscar nomination for the Portland based musician.  Like any great music it melted perfectly into the film and made it even more unforgettable.  The movie is widely available on any platform or device so if you haven't seen it yet get to it!