Judge Patrick Naugle is wicked smart.
"How do you like these apples?"
"Da'Fleck." That would be my tabloid name for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck if they were dating. But they are not dating. Instead they made a movie called Good Will Hunting together and went their separate ways. Oh well.
Facts of the Case
Although Will Hunting (Matt Damon, The Bourne Identity) is just a quiet janitor at MIT, he has other reasons for spending his time in the college's hallowed halls—Will is secretly a gifted math and chemistry wizard. Not realizing his potential, Will squanders each day in his Boston neighborhood with his best friend Chuckie (Ben Affleck, Armageddon) and cohorts (Cole Hauser and Casey Affleck), drinking and carousing the nights away.
When a brilliant professor (Stellan Skarsgåd, Deep Blue Sea) notices Will has solved a nearly impossible mathematical equation on a chalkboard, he bails Will out of a recent stint in jail and attempts to right his wrongs. Will's release from incarceration doesn't come without stipulations, including seeing a therapist. This eventually leads him to Sean Maguire (Robin Williams in an Oscar winning role), a mild mannered counselor who not only attempts to help heal Will's hurts but also allows Will to shape how he sees the world around him.
Wow. Has it already been almost fifteen years since Good Will Hunting was released to critical acclaim and nine Oscar nominations? Time certainly has a way of breezing right past you when you least expect it. It's hard to fathom now, but there was a time when the world did not know the likes of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. There was also a time when these two friends seemed inseparable; for a brief moment it was as if they would forever be the dramatic version of Chris Farley and David Spade. The past decade has seen the two men slowly but steadily follow divergent paths. Matt Damon has gone on to become both a dramatic force to be reckoned with and an action hero, most notably in the wildly popular Bourne and Ocean's trilogies. Ben Affeck started off making action movies (Armageddon, Pearl Harbor), became a tabloid staple when he dated Jennifer Lopez, seemed to lose his way with a series of poorly received films (Gigli, Jersey Girl, Saving Christmas) and has now found his bearings as an acclaimed director (Gone Baby Gone, The Town). And to think…all of this started with the little movie that could, Good Will Hunting.
Good Will Hunting is a movie that works because it's filled with unique, moving performances, not the least of which is Robin Williams as Sean Maguire, the counselor who helps Will discover not only his potential as a genius but also his potential to heal his inner child. When Williams isn't making family or kiddie drivel (such as Patch Adams or Father's Day) he can really shine when given the right role. Scaling back his shtick to almost zero, Williams is both effective and amusing in his award winning role. Years later it's sometimes hard to see why certain performances captured the Oscar; that's certainly not the case with Williams. His Best Supporting Academy Award for Good Will Hunting was well deserved.
Other performances shine. Damon is affecting as Will Hunting, even if you can see the seams of his acting in certain moments. Damon treads a fine line between making Hunting a complete prick (an emotionally raw scene with Minnie Driver almost takes the audience off his side) and a temperamental Faberge egg that requires delicate healing. Even bit roles do their part; Minnie Driver is adorably amusing as Will's possible love interest while Cole Hauser and Casey Affleck (Ben's real life brother) are effective with what limited screen time they are given. This is truly an ensemble cast without a weak link in the entire cinematic chain.
The film won Oscars for both Williams's performance and the screenplay, written by Damon and Affleck. Good Will Hunting was clearly a labor of love for the two stars; it's an emotionally rich story that deals with abuse, fate and the fear of being hurt from letting love in. Director Gus Van Sant (Milk) handles the material with a deft touch that never treads into sappy, overly sentimental nonsense.
One final important piece of the puzzle is Danny Elfman's wonderfully complex yet simplistic score. Over the years Elfman's score has been ripped off and even used in other films; Elfman put a lot of time and effort into this musical landscape and it shows. The score almost has a life of its own, wistful and knowing as it sends our characters onward towards their fate. Simply, this is one of the best film scores I've ever heard.
Good Will Hunting continues to be a gripping, fascinating character study. It's garnered a loyal following and for good reason: it's an exceptional, solid film.
Good Will Hunting is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen in 1080p resolution. This transfer looks very good, if not great; it has a very filmic "look," and while there are some moments where the transfer sports some grain or minor imperfections, overall the image looks clear. Colors are evenly saturated and the picture is sharp. Collectors who have been stuck with the Canadian version will be happy to see this one.
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio in English. This is a front heavy mix which shouldn't come as a surprise since Good Will Hunting is a drama (which usually means little in the way of surround activity). Elfman's score is prominently featured throughout the movie and pops up from time to time through all of the surrounding speakers. Dialogue, music and effects are all cleanly recorded and easily heard. Also included on this release are English and Spanish subtitles.
The extra features included on this disc are mostly ported over from the more than decade old "special edition" DVD, including a commentary track by director Gus Van Sant and actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, eleven deleted scenes (with optional commentary), a short and fluffy "Production Featurette", an Academy Award Best Picture Montage, a video for the song "Miss Misery" by the late Elliot Smith, some behind the scenes footage and a theatrical trailer for the film.
Also included in this package is a second disc with a bonus digital copy.
I was slightly surprised at how much I enjoyed reviewing Good Will Hunting; it's a movie that pulls you into its story and characters and doesn't let go until the final frame. It's rare for a movie to have that power and Good Will Hunting earns every drop of its, well…good will. Lionsgate has done good work on this disc which is certainly a huge step up from the original non-anamorphic transfer on the previous DVD editions.
Good Will Hunting holds up well after nearly fifteen years.
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