Good Will Hunting (1997 with Robin Williams and Matt Damon)

USA / 1997

Director: Gus Van Sant
Writers: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck

Cast: Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Stellan Skarsgård, Minnie Driver

Working as a janitor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Will Hunting (Matt Damon) lives an unremarkable life, until one night he completes a vastly complex maths problem left on a classroom blackboard.

Shortly after, he is involved in a fight, but avoids jail after the judge listens to evidence from Professor Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård), who promises redemption through education and counselling. That night, Will watches as his friend Chuckie (Ben Affleck) tries to sweet talk a medical student named Skylar (Minnie Driver). When he fails, Will steps in and gets her phone number. They begin to date.

After several failed attempts, Hunting finds a sympathetic counsellor, Sean McGuire (Robin Williams). During the sessions McGuire admits to being newly widowed, and is able to get reciprocal revelations from his client, who becomes aware that his life is at a crossroads…

The recognition of rare talent occurred on both sides of the camera, with Will gaining the glory, and his creators breaking into Hollywood. Damon and Affleck watched in disbelief as their agent refused a $15,000 offer for the script, only to be vindicated when Miramax sprang for $1 million.

Taking over from Mel Gibson (who opted to make Ransom instead) Van Sant produced his most accessible picture, nurturing a cast whose skill belies their collective inexperience. Williams is the sole star, dispensing with his usual shtick in favour of a measured performance wholly in tune with the literate script.

The writers cram autobiography into the plot, with character names, locations and experiences appropriated from real-life. Art mirrored life during production when Damon finished with the real Skylar, his current girlfriend, in favour of the fictional one.

Other posts featuring the following