Good Will Hunting (1997)

Good Will Hunting
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck
(number 433)

I have seen this movie once before and I think it was a very long time ago. I couldn’t remember much beyond what was parodied in Community.

I have a massive soft spot for these soft focus movies about fancy colleges/schools and the clean and tidy people who go to them. However this one is a weird examination of class and how important it is to subscribe to this idea that smart people are better and deserve to be more successful than the plain ordinary blue collar workers. It’s a little uncomfortable… especially when they’re talking about the honour in doing jobs like fixing cars and cleaning the university. It’s uncomfortable for me because to buy that point of view you have to think that some people are just better and more deserving than others, that the ones who are more deserving are smarter (by that I mean, academically smarter, because that’s what this movie is about), and I just don’t think that’s true. I don’t think being able to solve a mathematical equation makes you a better person.

Besides that there’s also the incredible whiteness of the movie. Which, you know, its not surprising but it’s uncomfortable when the whole ‘better and more deserving’ comes into it.

Matt’s Boston accent is come and go, we hear it on ‘a’s and not at any other time. He does well though, at playing this intelligent kid with insecurities. He’s eclipsed by Robin Williams as a broken psychology teacher/therapist. He has this beautiful line where he says “I know who I am, and I’m proud of what I do. It was a conscious choice, I didn’t fuck up! And you and your cronies think I’m some sort of pity case.” I really like that bit because it calls out one of the big issues I have with the movie, that you have to be in the accepted academic life to be a good person or successful or whatever.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah, this whole movie is about making you love everyone, especially Will and Sean. When they start to really connect it’s genuinely heartwarming, you are rooting for these characters and for them to overcome their personal demons which are stopping them making choices that may benefit them.

I have been complaining about the movie, but I do genuinely like it. It’s like easy listening music, you can put it on and watch or half watch and it’s just kind of relaxing and nice. It makes me want to watch School Ties and Dead Poet’s Society and maybe a Beautiful Mind as well.

Bechdel test: No, we have Skylar and another woman student called Cathy but they never speak. There’s an awful lot of men talking about women, Will about Skylar, Sean about his dead wife. But this is a very much male dominated movie.

Best line:
Sean: I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms “visiting hours” don’t apply to you. You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much.

State of Mind: Way more Meeeeeehhhhh than I expected. Anna enjoyed it, though, and it is just a really good solid movie.

Watched movie count

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3 thoughts on “Good Will Hunting (1997)

  1. “I don’t think being able to solve a mathematical equation makes you a better person.”

    Weird – I thought that was exactly the point of the film.

    • I dunno, ultimately he gets the ‘ideal ending’ of accepting his academic prowess, going to work in the white collar world and transcending his status. His blue collar friend rejoices because he’s ascended, etc etc

  2. Except that does he? He leaves the Blue Collar world of his immediate circle, but his future is unwritten and it’s not even clear Minnie Driver will be waiting for him or accept him at the end of the road trip. The very last act of the film is explicitly to reject adopting the conventional white-collar job laid out for him in favour of pursuing love, completely orthogonal to his “gifrts”. I read that ending as Matt Damon finally deciding to make his own decisions, and that is why Ben Affleck is happy. Up until that point, Matt has been entirely constrained by choices and actions of others. He can’t cope with his limited world, he can’t form more than superficial romantic relationships based on convenience, he is certainly not in a position of moral or practical ascendance.

    I think we shouldn’t feel too inspired by the over-intellectual characters he meets either. Skellan Skarsgard is blatantly using Matt, and justifying that with exactly the claim you’re uncomfortable with – that white collar is just plainly better than blue. The other students Matt meets, such as the famous bar confrontation, betray how hollow that route is. Matt doesn’t need any of that intellectual apparatus to thrive, and he is never educated in the traditional sense.

    So I read the film as not generally endorsing the idea that his intellectual gifts made him “better” – just the opposite, that they had no benefit to him as a human being at all, and only by looking beyond his immediate circumstances could he make good decisions. I see the contrast in his two mentors as underlining that – Skarsgard wants to use him, driven by his intellectual vanity, Williams wants to help him because he has nothing to prove to anyone.

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