Epic Movie (Re)Watch #132 - Good Will Hunting
Have I seen it before: Yes
Did I like it then: Yes.
Do I remember it: Yes.
Did I see it in theaters: No.
1) I find it interesting how when the opening credits say, “Written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck,” it says Damon’s name over Affleck’s character and vice versa.
2) The first character in the film we really get to know is Stellan Skarsgård as Gerald Lambeau.
You get that Skarsgård has good intentions, even though he is a massive pretentious asshole who hits on his students and judges people not based on how happy they are but more their position in life. A janitor is a failure. A community college teacher is a failure. Any other opinions be damned. He’s not EXCLUSIVELY a bad guy though. You understand his intentions are good and he does learn as the film goes on, but damn if he isn’t just a prick for most of the film.
3) The first tavern scene is a nice way of introducing us to Will and his friends. It creates a sense of community between them and South Boston, a sense of character for every member of the group, and their relationships with each other.
4) Matt Damon as Will Hunting.
Will is a character who you really get to know over time, and that’s very nice. At first he largely keeps to himself and we get that he doesn’t care about power or prestige. At first that’s a noble thing, but then we learn that this is born less out of humility and more out of fear. Will is a flawed character. He convinces himself of all the disadvantages of somethings, of the shame of it, because he is petrified. His world, his life with his friends, that is safe for him. That is home. And he doesn’t really risk to go for more than that because of his fear of rejection (identified by Robin Williams’ Sean Maguire later in the movie). I think this - along with the beatings he sustained as a child - fuels the aggression we see (and later hear about) when he picks a fight with an old kindergarden bully for no other reason than he just felt like it (and then doesn’t stop until the cops show up).
But Will is SMART. And not like a little smart either, but incredibly intelligent. He’s not afraid to show it either, he doesn’t hide it when he feels a need to use it. But he doesn’t brag about it either. He is not in his friends’ faces with it with an, “I’m so much smarter than you,” attitude. Matt Damon - the film’s cowriter with Ben Affleck - plays Will’s many facets very well. This film is incredibly well cast and most of the actors when you’re watching them don’t FEEL like actors. They feel like the characters, totally and completely. Damon as the lead is no exception.
5) Can I just say: I LIVE for scenes in movies and moments in life where some pretentious condescending asshole is put in their place totally and completely? It’s so cathartic!
6) Minnie Driver as Skylar.
Can I just say I LOVE Skylar, even if she is at risk of falling into the category of manic pixie dream girl on paper. Minnie Driver’s academy award nominated performance in this film just makes her so much MORE than that! I love everything about Skylar: how she approaches Will at the bar and calls him an idiot for not asking her out, how she is able to hold her own against Will’s sense of humor and occasional bullshitting, her laugh, her honesty, her heart! The first time I watched this film I was in awe - more than anything else - with Driver’s realism in the part. She and Damon have knockout chemistry that not only suggests to you their heat but their friendship. It is totally believable that they fall in love in such a quick time, and that is because they work so fucking brilliantly with each other. There is sincerity, trust, comradery, humor, an ability to be themselves around each other. I believe Damon and Driver dated for a while after meeting on this film, and that chemistry shows. I just…gah! I love it so much!
Will [to the douchebag from the bar]: “Do you like apples?”
Will [placing Skylar’s phone number on the glass between them]: “Well I got her number.”
8) The way Lambeau treats Will is…interesting, to say the least. At first it seems like he looks down at him. Like he’s his savior and he knows it. There’s a scene where after they’re done doing math together, Lambeau ruffles Will’s hair. Who the hell does that? It changes as the film goes on. You realize that Lambeau grows to understand that Will is truly an unmatched genius, but early on it’s…weird.
9) The string of psychiatrists Lambeau takes Will to see is very telling and very entertaining. It shows how smart Will is, but also how abrasive he is. How he scoffs at authority and the need for help. It’s a funny scene but it greatly tells to Will’s deeper struggles.
10) Robin Williams as Sean Maguire.
Williams won his first and only Oscar based on his performance in this film, and damn if it isn’t clear why. Williams is chameleonic. Yes you know its Robin Williams playing him, yes he brings some of his trademark improv comedy (more on that later), but you don’t SEE Williams. All you see is Sean, and that is incredible. Damon and Affleck took a character who could have easily been just the token mentor. The Obi-Wan to Will’s Luke Skywalker. But they did more. They gave Sean his own struggles, his own grief, his own desires, his own conflict, his own arc, and made a truly compelling character who can hold his own against Damon’s Will.
You learn a lot about Sean as the film goes along. You learn how his life is defined by his love and loss of his wife, you see that he is able to relate to actual people, that he hates the MIT snobs. The dude chokes Will out for insulting his wife at one point and is the first therapist to kick Lambeau out of his session. Meaning he takes his time with Will far more seriously than the other therapists.
The chemistry between Williams and Damon is on par with the chemistry between Driver and Damon, although of a fundamentally different nature. Williams as Sean is able to sift through Will’s bullshit, knows when he doesn’t need to put up with it, and is able to slowly make this character who is so afraid of rejection comfortable around him. I think it’s the key relationship in the film, and I love it.
11) Danny Elfman’s score in this film is beautiful. Elfman is known for his more macabre work through collaborations with directors like Tim Burton and Sam Raimi, but here he creates a hopeful and sincere melody which carries you through the film like a leaf on the wind. I think it’s great.
12) The scene where Sean is talking to Will on a park bench is somewhat iconic, but I think it is very powerful for one key reason: the filmmakers decided to keep it on William’s performance for most of the scene. They did not cut between him and Damon, they let his acting and his heart carry those minutes and it is incredible I think. You can watch for yourself if you so desire:
This is my favorite line from that monologue:
Sean: “You’re an orphan right. Do you think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been - how you feel, who you are - because I read Oliver Twist?”
People like to say they know what other people are going through, but unless they have personally they don’t have any idea what they’re talking about. Thank you to this film for having that line in there. I love it.
13) According to IMDb:
The lines in the scene when Sean talks about his late wife’s farting antics were ad-libbed by Robin Williams. That is why Matt Damon was laughing so hard. If you watch the scene carefully you can notice the camera shaking a bit, possibly due to the cameraman laughing as well.
14) This film does an excellent job in balancing the aspects of Will’s life. We get the perfect looks at his relationship with his friends, with Skylar, with Sean, and with Lambeau. There’s not too much and there’s not too little, it’s just right.
15) It is interesting to see how Will lets his guard down with Skylar in some regards while also keeping it up in some ways (namely, lying about how he has 12 brothers).
16) I love Skylar’s story with Will’s friends.
Minnie Driver is gold.
Lambeau [after Sean says they should let Sean go down his own path]: “It worked wonders for you didn’t it?”
Sean: “Yeah it did you arrogant fucking prick.”
(GIF source unknown [if this is your GIF please let me know].)
WHETHER OR NOT SOMEONE HAS LIVED A GOOD LIFE IS NOT BASED ON THEIR STATURE. IT IS NOT BASED ON THEIR JOB, THEIR WEALTH, THEIR LOOKS, NOTHING LIKE THAT. IT IS EXCLUSIVELY BASED ON HOW HAPPY THEY ARE LIVING THEIR LIFE AND HOW MUCH PAIN THEY ARE OR ARE NOT CAUSING OTHERS!!!!
(GIF originally posted by @marshmallow-the-vampire-slayer)
I have a lot of strong feelings on this matter, can you tell?
18) I love how Will explains the way his brain works. How he says Mozart and Beethoven could just look at a piano and play, that’s how his brain works with history and numbers and science and stuff. It actually makes a lot of sense despite being pretty vague.
19) Get ready to have your heart broken by Will being a fucking idiot.
GODDAMN IT WILL!!!!!
20) Will’s whole monologue about why he doesn’t take a job with the NSA because of what COULD happen and one hypothetical leading to another is just a perfect example of him using his intellect to rationalize his fears in a bullshit way.
Will [in a session with Sean]: “Why shouldn’t I work for the N.S.A.? That’s a tough one, but I’ll take a shot. Say I’m working at N.S.A. Somebody puts a code on my desk, something nobody else can break. Maybe I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I’m real happy with myself, ‘cause I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East. Once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels were hiding and fifteen hundred people I never met, never had no problem with, get killed. Now the politicians are sayin’, “Oh, send in the Marines to secure the area” 'cause they don’t give a shit. It won’t be their kid over there, gettin’ shot. Just like it wasn’t them when their number got called, 'cause they were pullin’ a tour in the National Guard. It’ll be some kid from Southie takin’ shrapnel in the ass. And he comes back to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, 'cause he’ll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks. Meanwhile, he realizes the only reason he was over there in the first place was so we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And, of course, the oil companies used the skirmish over there to scare up domestic oil prices. A cute little ancillary benefit for them, but it ain’t helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. And they’re takin’ their sweet time bringin’ the oil back, of course, and maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink martinis and fuckin’ play slalom with the icebergs, and it ain’t too long 'til he hits one, spills the oil and kills all the sea life in the North Atlantic. So now my buddy’s out of work and he can’t afford to drive, so he’s got to walk to the fuckin’ job interviews, which sucks 'cause the shrapnel in his ass is givin’ him chronic hemorrhoids. And meanwhile he’s starvin’, 'cause every time he tries to get a bite to eat, the only blue plate special they’re servin’ is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State. So what did I think? I’m holdin’ out for somethin’ better. I figure fuck it, while I’m at it why not just shoot my buddy, take his job, give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected president.”
21) One of my favorite scenes in this film is Chuckie’s reaction after Will says he’s going to stay in south Boston his whole life.
Chuckie: “Look, you’re my best friend, so don’t take this the wrong way but, in 20 years if you’re still livin’ here, comin’ over to my house, watchin’ the Patriots games, workin’ construction, I’ll fuckin’ kill ya. That’s not a threat, that’s a fact, I’ll fuckin’ kill ya.”
He is like the only one - between Skylar, Sean, and Lambeau - to actually get through to Will. And that is because he speaks Will’s language. It’s one of my favorite character moments in the film.
22) I do really love the climax of the film (Sean telling Will, “It’s not your fault,” for his foster dad beating on him and Will breaking down into tears) even if I’m aware of some of it’s flaws. This is a turning point for Will, but if he were in therapy in real life this wouldn’t be the end. Also most therapists don’t treat their patients this way. But that’s the beauty of fiction: we have this thing called suspension of disbelief which makes movies fun to watch! :D
23) I think the ending for this film is quite lovely. So many different ideas from earlier play into effect, Will goes to make up with Skylar (headcanon: he gets her back after much groveling and attempts to convince her he’s changed), and what Matt Damon said was Robin Williams’ best improvised line in the film.
Will [in a note he leaves for Sean]: "Sean, if the Professor calls about that job, just tell him, sorry, I have to go see about a girl.“
Good Will Hunting is a classic of cinema. It features excellent writing that features a heartwarming story, supported by incredible performances across the board. Williams, Damon, and Driver are all particular standouts, but the film is just so good. Perhaps a little overrated, but still incredible. Go see it!