Good Will Hunting is a 1997 American drama film directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver and Stellan Skarsgård. Written by Affleck and Damon, and with Damon in the title role, the film follows 20-year-old South Boston laborer Will Hunting, an unrecognized genius who, as part of adeferred prosecution agreement after assaulting a police officer, becomes a patient of a therapist (Williams) and studies advanced mathematics with a renowned professor (Skarsgård). Through his therapy sessions, Will re-evaluates his relationships with his best friend (Affleck), his girlfriend (Driver), and himself, facing the significant task of thinking about his future.
Good Will Hunting received universal critical acclaim and was a financial success. It grossed over US$225 million during its theatrical run with only a modest $10 million budget. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture, and won two: Best Supporting Actor for Williams and Best Original Screenplay for Affleck and Damon.
Plot[edit | edit source]
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the entire movie.
Twenty-year-old Will Hunting (Matt Damon) of South Boston is a self-taught, genius-level intellect with an eidetic memory, though he works simply as a janitor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technoglogy, and spends his free time drinking with his friends Chuckie (Ben Affleck), Billy (Cole Hauser) and Morgan (Casey Affleck). When Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård) posts a difficult problem taken from alegebraic graph theory as a challenge for his graduate students, Will solves the problem anonymously, stunning both the graduate students and Lambeau himself. As a challenge to the unknown genius, Lambeau posts an even more difficult problem and chances upon Will solving it. Fearing he'll lose his sole means of (a meager) income, Will flees, and skips going into work the next day. That night, Will meets Skylar (Minnie Driver), a British orphan about to graduate from Harvard, who plans on attending graduate school at the Stanford University School of Medicine immediately after.
Assaulting a man who bullied him as a child, Will faces incarceration, but Lambeau arranges for him to forgo jail time if he agrees to study mathematics under Lambeau's supervision while simultaneously seeking behavioral health treatment with a therapist. Will tentatively agrees but treats his first few therapists with contempt; his refusal to open up is met with staunch defiance by the bourgeois mentality of the therapists, who each refuse to treat Will further. In desperation, Lambeau calls on Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), his estranged—and much more grounded—college roommate, who now teaches psychology at Bunker Hill Community College. Unlike the other therapists, Sean actually challenges Will's weak defense mechanisms, and after a few unproductive sessions Will begins to open up.
Will is particularly struck by Sean's story of how he met his wife by giving up his ticket to the historic sixth game of the 1975 World Series after falling in love at first sight. Sean neither regrets his decision, nor does he regret the final years of his marriage when his wife was dying of cancer. This encourages Will to build a relationship with Skylar, though he lies to her about his past and is reluctant to introduce her to his friends or show her his run-down neighborhood. Will also challenges Sean to take an objective look at his own life, since Sean has been unable to move on from his wife's death.
Chafing under Lambeau's high expectations, Will makes a mockery of job interviews that Lambeau arranges for him. Will walks in on a heated argument between Sean and Lambeau over his future and it greatly upsets him. When Skylar asks Will to move to California with her, he panics and pushes her away, revealing that he is an orphan and that his foster father physically abused him. Skylar tells Will that she loves him, but he denies loving her and then leaves. He next storms out on Lambeau, dismissing the mathematical research he has been doing. Sean points out that Will is so adept at anticipating future failure in his interpersonal relationships that he deliberately sabotages them in order to avoid emotional pain. When Will refuses to give an honest reply about what he wants to do with his life, Sean shows him the door. Will tells Chuckie he wants to be a laborer for the rest of his life; Chuckie responds that it would be an insult to his friends for Will to waste his potential, and that his fondest wish is that Will should leave to pursue something greater. Will decides to accept one of the job offers arranged by Lambeau.
Sean and Will share that they were both victims of child abuse, and Sean helps Will to accept that the abuse he suffered was not his fault. Having helped Will overcome his problems, Sean reconciles with Lambeau and decides to take a sabbatical to travel the world. When Will's friends present him with a rebuilt Chevrolet Nova for his 21st birthday, he decides to pass on his job offers and drive to California to reunite with Skylar, which he mentions in a letter to Sean.
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Cast[edit | edit source]
- Matt Damon as Will Hunting
- Robin Williams as Dr. Sean Maguire
- Ben Affleck as Chuckie Sullivan
- Stellan Skarsgård as Professor Gerald Lambeau
- Minnie Driver as Skylar
- Casey Affleck as Morgan O'Mally
- Cole Hauser as Billy McBride
- John Mighton as Tom
- George Plimpton as Dr. Henry Lipkin
Production[edit | edit source]
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon originally wrote the screenplay as a thriller: Young man in the rough-and-tumble streets of South Bostonwho possesses a superior intelligence is targeted by the FBI to become a G-Man. Castle Rock Entertainment president Rob Reinerlater urged them to drop the thriller aspect of the story and to focus on the relationship between Will Hunting (Matt Damon) and his psychiatrist (Robin Williams). At Reiner's request, noted screenwriter William Goldman ead the script and further suggested that the film's climax ought to be Will's decision to follow his girlfriend Skylar to California. Goldman has consistently denied the persistent rumor that he wrote Good Will Hunting or acted as a script doctor. In his book, Which Lie Did I Tell? , Goldman jokingly writes "I did not just doctor it. I wrote the whole thing from scratch." before dismissing the rumour as false.
Castle Rock bought the script for $675,000 against $775,000, meaning that Affleck and Damon would stand to earn an additional $100,000 if the film was produced and they retained sole writing credit. However, studios balked at the idea of Affleck and Damon in the lead roles, with many studio executives stating that they wanted Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. At the time Damon and Affleck were meeting at Castle Rock, director Kevin Smith was working with Affleck on Mallrats and with both Affleck and Damon on Chasing Amy. Seeing that Affleck and Damon were having trouble with Castle Rock, Smith and his producer partner Scott Mosier brought the script to Miramax, which eventually resulted in the two receiving co-executive producer credits for Hunting. The script was put into turnaround and Miramax bought the rights from Castle Rock.
After buying the rights from Castle Rock, Miramax gave the green light to put the film into production. Several well-known filmmakers were originally considered to direct, including Mel Gibson, Michael Mann ans Steven Soderbergh. Originally Affleck asked Kevin Smith f he was interested in directing. Smith declined, saying they needed a "good director" and that he only directs things he writes and is not much of a visual director. Affleck and Damon later chose Gus Van Sant for the job, whose work in previous films like Drugstore Cowboy (1989) had left a favorable impression on the fledgling screenwriters. Miramax was persuaded and hired Van Sant to direct the film.
Good Will Hunting was filmed on location in the Greater Boston area and Toronto over five months in 1996. Although the story is set in Boston, much of the film was shot at locations in Toronto, with the University of Toronto standing in for the interiors of MIT and Harvard University. The classroom scenes were filmed at McLennan Physical Laboratories (of the University of Toronto) and Central Technical School. (Harvard initially refused to allow scenes to be filmed on campus, but a phone call from actor and Harvard graduate John Lithgow changed matters.) Likewise, only the exterior shots of Bunker Hill Community College were filmed in Boston; however, Sean's office was built in Toronto as an exact replica of one at the college. The restaurant to which Lambeau took Sean was Lock-Ober, on Winter Place. It closed in 2012.
The interior bar scenes set in South Boston (Southie) were shot on location at Woody's L St. Tavern. Meanwhile, the homes of Will and Sean, while some distance apart in the movie, were actually next door to each other at the northern corner of E Street and West 6th Street. The rear of Will's house backs onto Bowen Street.
The Bow and Arrow Pub, which was located at the corner of Bow Street and Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, doubled as the Harvard bar in which Will met Skylar for the first time. The Baskin-Robbins/Dunkin' Donuts featured in the "How'd you like them apples?" scene was next door to the pub (now Grafton Street) at the time of the film's release, but now it is two doors down after One Bow Street opened up between the two the following year. In September 2013 it was reported that the Baskin-Robbins and Dunkin' Donuts business was to be moved from this location, but was instead kept open.
The Tasty, which is the present-day Citizens Bank at the corner of JFK and Brattle Streets, was the scene of Will and Skylar's first kiss. The Au Bon Pain, where Will and Skylar discuss the former's photographic memory, is at the corner of Dunster Street and Mass Ave. Cups of Will's caffeine of choice, Peet's Coffee, are visible on several tables because the product was served at Au Bon Pain locations at the time.
The footage during the closing credits is along the Massachusetts Turnpike in Stockbridge, heading west toward the New York border.
The cast engaged in considerable improvisation in rehearsals. Robin Williams, Ben Affleck and Minnie Driver each made significant contributions to their characters. Robin Williams' last line in the film, as well as the therapy scene in which he talks about his character's wife's little idiosyncrasies, were both ad-libbed. The therapy scene took everyone by surprise. According to Damon's commentary in the DVD version of the film, this caused the cameraman to laugh so hard that the camera can be seen moving up and down slightly.
Director Gus Van Sant says in the DVD commentary that, had he known just how successful the film was going to be, he would have left at least a couple of edited scenes intact that were cut purely for considerations of length. One of these involves Skylar's visit to Chuckie in hopes of shedding light on some of Will's eccentricities that Will himself is unwilling to discuss.
The film is dedicated to the memory of poet Allen Ginsberg and writer William S. Burroughs, both of whom died in 1997.
Reception[edit | edit source]
In the film's opening weekend in limited release, it earned $272,912. In its January 1998 wide-release opening weekend, it earned $10,261,471. It went on to gross $138,433,435 in North America for a total worldwide gross of $225,900,000.
Good Will Hunting has received universal acclaim from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoesgive the film a score of 97% based on review from 69 critics, with an average score of 8/10, making the film a "Certified Fresh" on the website's rating system. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted meanrating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 70, based on 28 reviews, which indicates "Generally favorable reviews".
Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars, writing that while the story is "predictable", it is "the individual moments, not the payoff, that make it so effective."
Derek Adams liked the film, saying "To an extent, the film challenges America's ingrained anti-intellectualism, yet its anti-elitist instincts lead it close to equating academia with a dubious effeminacy. In the end it even falls back on that old cinematic panacea: get in touch with your inner Robin Williams."
Gary Brown says "Despite its coarse exterior, Good Will Hunting proves to be a rather positive and motivational experience."
Jeffery Overstreetsays "... beneath their arrogance and crass behavior, you'll find a lot of hurt and many defense mechanisms raised against a compassionless, manipulative society."
Several scholars have examined the film as a portrayal of residual Catholic-Protestant tensions in Boston, as Irish Catholics from Southie are aligned against ostensibly Protestant characterswho are affiliated with Harvard and MIT.