Critical Response To The Film Good Will Hunting

Good Will Hunting is a 1997 movie that was an Academy Award Nominee for Best Picture that same year. It follows Will Hunting, a janitor at MIT, who recently got himself in trouble with the law over a case of assault. A professor at the college who saw potential in his intelligence agreed to bail him out, under the condition that he both studied under him and saw a therapist. After setting him up with Sean, the professor's former roommate, Will eventually reevaluated his life choices and relationships, while being able to provide a similar role back towards Sean.

Overall, I believe the film has enough aspects that would make it worth rewatching. The biggest one for me would be the multitude of scenes that provide depth to the characters, and analyze their complex nature. The base structure of the film’s plot has many cliche elements, so these moments become necessary to make it stand out. One of the most notable of these for me is when Sean sits himself and Will on a park bench, overlooking a swan filled lake. Sean starts monologuing to Will about what he has determined about him, after analyzing the conversation they had last session. He persists that, although he is a genius, he hasn’t experienced much of what life could potentially offer for him yet (Lake Therapy Session Scene). Will’s claims that he made about Sean couldn't hold up because he doesn’t understand marriage or Sean himself. What stood out to me most in this scene compared to the other sessions is the setting. Most other sessions take place in Sean’s office, which although they provide great character development, can start to have their contents blend together when reflected on. This scene changes that aspect, allowing Sean’s initial message to his patient to be more impactful and better assert his authority over Will. These types of scenes are often the ones that I think about and remember the most often, and I would likely come back to ones similar to this in the future, if they were to ever cross my mind again.

This movie has aged pretty well, and can likely continue to stand the test of time for many years to come. Most of the movie contains concepts and elements that wouldn’t alienate it from viewers in the future, the closest they could get being the usage of wired telephones (Will’s phone calls with his girlfriend). Most of the plot also includes events that could easily happen today. Although the main plot centering around college and academics may be exclusive for more academic viewers to relate to, the idea of untapped or wasted potential can hold more relevance to a broader audience, whether they may think of themselves or of someone else. For these same reasons, the movie does not involve situations that refuse to serve any modern relevance.

This movie has played a part in deepening my understanding of the relationship between a mentor and a student. Sean’s method of reaching Will was cold at first because he constantly tried to provoke his therapists, in an attempt to avoid having to see one (Therapist Failure Scenes). However, once he started seeing Sean, Will started to open up once he gained more respect for him, allowing Will to leave his sessions with newly gained wisdom (First Successful Session Scene). Will’s improvements in his life can be attributed to the experiences and knowledge that Sean is able to convey to him, which enables him to relate and understand back. This is the key component that allowed Sean to break Will’s barrier and eventually reach his true self, and without it Will likely would have stayed the same harsh way he was before. The movie however does not present many new ideas, due to the cliche nature of the plot.

The characters in the movie are for the most part credible. At first I didn’t believe this to be the case for Will, but analyzing the implications the movie offered on his upbringing allowed my mind to change on that matter. Being in the situation he was in, Will has endured being orphaned, an abusive father (Final Session Scene), bullying (Basketball Court Assault Scene), and a rough neighborhood. These factors all led him to try and distance himself from most relationship development, fearing how they may put him down. I originally believed that there may have been at least one teacher that would be able to scout him out and place him in an environment that could better foster his education, but then I deemed that unlikely. If that were to somehow occur given his already poor circumstances, Will would likely brush that person off as another one to disappoint him. I wish the film would have further addressed his childhood, and given these thoughts proper answers.

The movie has a logical placement of its scenes, with it and the pacing being much stronger during the second half of the movie, One of the best flowing scenes was during Will’s declination of a job offer at the NSA (NSA Interview Scene). Being prompted to acknowledge his problems with the agency’s ethics, he gets into a long winded monologue about how his actions could easily lead to the destruction of the lives of innocent people without his own knowledge or consent. During said monologue, the movie almost seamlessly transitions Will’s setting from the NSA headquarters to the office of Sean (Will’s Explanation of Job Declinations Scene). This not only allows the movie to flow into the therapy session much smoother, but it also implies that Will is cut off by the interviewer. However, there are a few places where scenes felt oddly spliced together. A noticeable string of these can be found at the beginning of the movie. The film’s method of establishing the contrasting aspects of Will’s life is by alternating between the two, showing a scene relating to his academic skills followed by another one that instead presents his relationship with his brothers. These scenes often clash with each other, and are often displayed for too short of a time period to leave any substantial impact on the viewer. I believe these segments would have benefited from a redone ordering. Having the individual scenes being in longer chains of relevancy to the prior clip would be one way to fix this, solving the length problem. You could also opt to implement each group of scenes together, first using the academic ones to initiate Will’s gift, followed by the ones of him hanging out with his friends and brothers to identify how he undermines his own potential. This series of changes would end before the scene where the mathematics teacher sees Hunting solve the second equation, because that is where both sides intersect for the first time.

The ideas presented in the film are strongly stated. The negative consequences of someone misusing their own intelligence is probably the biggest one in the movie, and is made blatantly clear throughout many scenes. One in particular that stands out is when Will and a coworker are on break at a construction job. Will addressed to him how he disliked having to perform these requirements, and is happy that they would be over soon. After listening to Will’s gripes, he responds with his thoughts on the matter, encouraging Will to follow through with what has been set up for him. He finishes with a line that for some reason stuck with me: “You have a winning lottery ticket, yet you’re too pussy to cash it in.” The fact that this advice came from someone in a similar place to what he was in allowed Will to rethink his decisions. Many people may often discredit the viewpoints of others because of their position being different than the one they are at. But if the same opinion comes from someone they may trust much more, they can hear it out much easier. This film was one that surprised me with its quality, seeing as the pacing issues in the beginning struggled to properly hook me in at first. But now, looking back, I can safely say that this movie is worth seeing if you get the chance, thanks to the detailed characters it presents. 

16 December 2021
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