“We made the decision to do it just for us. Let’s make a movie that we love. Even if it’s just a videotape on our mantel, it’s one that we’re proud of.”
— Matt Damon
Before there were cinematic blunders like Daredevil and Stuck On You, the actor/screenwriter duo of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were practically unknowns, looking for opportunities as young actors. Then, they received high critical acclaim for their screenwriting debut on Good Will Hunting. A friendship that’s tested the boundaries of Hollywood flops and Sexiest Man Alive beauty contests, Damon and Affleck sat down to revisit Good Will Hunting on the 15th anniversary Bluray edition.
To understand the weight the film has carried, it would be remiss not to mention that over time, Good Will Hunting has been dubbed by critics as one of the best coming of age stories of all time. The film, which showcased Damon’s flexibility as an actor, something we would all come to know in spades, has transcended from its original generation so much that TBS often plays the film on a monthly basis and it still gages with an audience. No matter how much time has passed, Good Will Hunting never loses its charm. Perhaps that’s why it’s hard to believe that the made on a shoestring story that was later bought by Harvey Weinstein for a hefty $1 million, has turned 15 since its theatrical release in 1997.
Good Will Hunting tells a simple, classic coming of age story. It’s about a stubborn young genius from South Boston who can barely hold a custodial job at MIT. The man, better known as Will Hunting (Damon) lets his brilliance go to waste by running the streets with his friends, but when he finds himself in front of a psychology professor (Robin Williams) after solving a notoriously difficult mathematical equation left on a chalkboard, only then does Hunting realize his potential in the world. The mentor to anti-student relationship flourishes into a budding friendship and before the film’s end Will Hunting is forced to weigh his options, and reluctantly open the wounds of his abusive childhood back up in order to let the ones he cares for the most into his new life.
Though charming with his toothy grin, Damon emanates believability with effortless quality. Damon finds the subtle undercurrent of realism in a terrifically nuanced performance. He’s vulnerable to a fault, and although he may have matinee idol looks, the truth behind his character’s eyes is hard to turn away from. The performance makes Damon as relatable as ever as the headstrong Southie, who thinks the world has very little to offer him. One scene in particular, which sees Will Hunting pushed to cross the threshold of his emotional limit by Williams’ character, no doubt nabbed him a well deserved Oscar nomination for best actor. With Damon at the helm, it’s hard to consider that at the time of its release the blonde haired blue-eyed Oscar winner was a stranger to cinema.
At the time, Williams’ delicate balancing act between the lines of comedy and drama was unexpected. It’s his dramatic, award winning turn in Good Will Hunting that opened up the opportunity to take bigger leaps in his repertoire. Like a skilled puppeteer he know exactly when to pull back, and when to throttle forward in emotional scenes with Damon. Like his character, Williams brings a sense of patience and understanding while acting opposite Damon, and its because of his awareness that he’s able to hone in on significant moments and broaden them emotionally, only to then sucker punch the audience with a stream of conscious like style of comedy.
It’s made clear that Will Hunting wouldn’t be anything without his friends; thus enters a well-rounded supporting cast that makes Hunting’s loyalty to his friends just as believable. Ben Affleck captures a perfect street machoism to Southie men, as the loyal best friend, Chuckie. It’s refreshing to see that Affleck is not afraid to play the second fiddle and to simply be present in a scene for no other purpose than to balance Damon’s performance. Rounding out the real life camaraderie is Casey Affleck as Morgan, and Cole Hauser as Billy McBride.
Although it’s not hard to catch this classic on television, it deserves to be watched uninterrupted in its remastered version. The 15th anniversary addition is a fan’s must have as it features hours of extensive bonus footage that includes in-depth discussions from the cast and crew, and a reflective featurette from Damon and Affleck. While the deleted scenes are a-plenty, the real gems are all those previously unanswered questions from the production process that are brought to light. The featurettes document with a fine tooth and comb the inner workings of a childhood friendship between Damon and Affleck, to the script’s outline, to the road to the Oscars, and the present to where Damon and Affleck sit side by side as grown men reminiscing on a time when there were still Hollywood moguls, and when spending $1 million dollars on a film, like Harvey Weinstein did at the time, was a huge deal for a little independent film