'Good Will Hunting: 15th Anniversary Edition' Proves that the Film Never Loses Its Charm

A friendship that’s tested the boundaries of Hollywood flops and Sexiest Man Alive beauty contests, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck sat down to revisit Good Will Hunting on the 15th anniversary Bluray edition.

Good Will Hunting

Director: Gus Van Sant
Cast: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Minnie Driver, Ben Affleck
Distributor: Lionsgate
Studio: Miramax
Release date: 2012-08-21
"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


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.