Matt Damon stars as Will Hunting, the closest thing to a kid from the wrong side of the tracks you could imagine. Abandoned, poor and abused, he has nothing on his side, except an unbelievable intelligence. The guy’s devouring book after book, and he learns at an amazing speed. And as far as Math go, he’s simply a genius, a one in a million case who can break any equation. But all the shit he went through seems to leave him stuck in a dead end job, living in a South Boston dump and wasting his time boozing with Chuckie and the gang. Will keeps getting in trouble, and he’s about to be thrown in the freezer when he’s more or less discovered by a Harvard teacher. Will is offered to avoid jail time if he just spends time every week doing math with the teacher and also goes in therapy. That’s when he meets Sean, an aging teacher who might be able to help him, as well as Skylar, a charming English med student…
At first, the plot may seem a bit strange. Math? Therapy? Romance? That’s an unusual recipe for a film, and not a very appealing one if you ask me. But it’s developed into a wonderful screenplay, written by Damon himself and his buddy and co-star Ben Affleck. You’d think those boys would just write a good little first film, but their script is actually incredibly smart, mature and profound. Besides Woody Allen’s, few American films pack that much culture. Plus, the whole emotional core of the film is impressively well thought. Each character is developed to the point where they practically come out of the screen. Will, Chuckie, Sean, Slylar and that Harvard teacher are far from being one-dimensional, and the film has them interacting in an always believable, never phony way.
The male bonding and the love story are very enjoyable, but the part that’s really great is the relationship between Will and his therapist. I’m having a hard time imagining how Affleck and Damon wrote Sean, a character with life experience who’s able to give wise advice to his protégé. In fact, the film is so well written that it doesn’t even matter who directed it. Because frankly, indie filmmaker Gus Van Sant’s presence ain’t felt very much. It’s hard to believe that this warm-hearted tale was directed by the same guy who made “To Die For”. Still, Van Sant knows how to handle a camera, and he achieves to turn a good script into a lively film.
More kudos to Damon and Affleck for their neat acting performances. Damon ain’t crazy talented like Vincent Gallo, but he’s still more than a pretty face. He plays Will with an interesting balance of badass attitude and sensibility. Personally, I like Ben Affleck even more. He’s a bit more playful, you know, like Mel Gibson or something, while Damon is more the Tom “look-at-my-teeth” Cruise type. Affleck’s brother Casey is also cool as one of their lowlife buddies. Robin Williams plays Sean, and he’s so convincing that you forget Williams the comedian. Finally, there’s Minnie Driver, who is a good actress and also a cute broad. In the end, “Good Will Huntin”g is a surprisingly good film. You could say that it’s a cross between “The Graduate”, “Amadeus” and “Dead Poets Society” or something.