I love Matt Damon. He’s exhibited a solid range of acting over the past twenty years, and despite being a bit…helpless…sometimes (“The Martian,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Interstellar” and probably a good portion of his movies) he is someone who consistently delivers admirable performances.
But how did it all start? With math…it started with math.
“Good Will Hunting” was the true arrival of Matt Damon…and Ben Affleck. Damon, who had starred in a few films in the late 80s and early 90s, would burst onto the scene with the Oscar-nominated film by Gus Van Sant. Ben Affleck also starred in some films, but he would still be slightly overshadowed by Damon.
Written by the duo, “Good Will Hunting” follows Damon as Will Hunting, a prodigy who knows way too much to be the janitor that he is. After sparking the attention of a legendary professor, Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard), he is taken under his wing to be prodded and primped in order to become the best he can be. Due to Will’s childhood, though, he suffers any lack of drive or focus and simply wants to do his own thing without worrying about money or being an asset. After getting busted with assault after a street fight, Lambeau sends him to therapy…right into the arms of Robin Williams, playing Sean.
This is where the bittersweetness starts: Robin Williams delivers one of his finest performances ever (he won an Oscar for it). A widowed therapist, he is still bitingly funny but also shows a rare, compassionate and pained side that is all the more heartbreaking because it simply feels like Williams being Williams.
As their relationship blooms to be a close friendship, Will also strikes up a romance with Skylar, played by Minnie Driver. The relational pairings in the film, including Will and Sean, Will and Skylar, and Will and Chuckie (Ben Affleck) reflect three varying degrees in which Will must grow up. Chuckie holds him back, because he really doesn’t have any marketable skills and knows that Will is meant for something better. Sean brings out Will’s issues and ushers him into the adulthood, and Skylar opens up Will romantically. It’s a beautifully written script (that netted Damon and Affleck their first Oscars) that is both poignantly realistic and smartly funny: certainly one of the best of the 90s.
Rated R, 126 minutes.