Thursday, November 12, 2009

Missed Touchstones Week: Good Will Hunting

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Academy Award winners.

Not for acting, of course. Although Matt's gotten some praise from his acting in recent years, I guess. He and Ben are basically perfectly adequate big-name actors these days. And they get to have "Academy Award-winning" before their names in commercials for, um, "Untitled Jason Bourne Project (2011)" and "Whatever Ben Affleck is doing to follow up on Daredevil and Smokin' Aces".

This is the movie that made them famous. It raised them up from "Wasn't he in Dazed and Confused?" to "Ben and Matt on the cover of Vanity Fair". I didn't see it at the time because I don't really dig on Gus Van Sant movies. The most straightforward movie he'd made at the time was My Own Private Idaho, starring River Phoenix as a narcoleptic street hustler. And I'm always leery of movies in which Robin Williams is a kindly father figure. He got lucky once in Dead Poets Society, but I usually find him insufferable in movies like that.

Speaking of the Academy Awards, did you know that Robin Williams has an Oscar for this movie? And three other nominations? Doesn't that seem like a lot?

Okay, anyway. Good Will Hunting is obsessed with class struggle, I think. Matt Damon's character ("Will Hunting", ho ho ho, and that's another reason I never got around to watching it) is supposedly a genius. Except I never really buy it. He's memorized a lot of books and is brilliant at math, but when he's not spouting theorems, he's not acting like a genius. The movie saw that objection coming, though, because Will is a huge jerk most of the time and it's hard to tell what he'd be like if he calmed down.

I didn't really identify with this movies "Harvard vs. Townies" angle, because I went to college in the city I grew up in. And I guess UCSD students aren't as snooty as they are at Harvard and people in San Diego generally aren't as angry and edgy as people in Boston. My theory is that this is because San Diego is a nice place to live, which creates a calmness not available in places that have snow.

I was surprised that Will was the instigator of the fights. I always figured there would be some scenes of college kids sneering at the townies first, but instead, Will and his buddies apparently just cruise around town looking for "smart kids" to beat up. That's an interesting move, because it practically dares the audience to sympathize with Will. And I think Damon pulls it off. So good for him. I was less impressed by Affleck, who has a big endless monologue-slash-joke that I tuned out. Incidentally, I think it's cheating to fill out your Oscar-winning screenplay with characters telling jokes. That's why The Aristocrats didn't win.

Anyway, I liked it okay. I still think Matt and Ben shouldn't be allowed to call themselves "Academy Award Winners" in ads for movies where they're just acting. I'm even going to accept William Goldman's word that he didn't write the script for them. I'm open-minded!

1 comment:

Chris Rywalt said...

To continue my comment streak: I didn't see this movie, haven't seen it, and don't plan on seeing it. There's just no hole in my life it needs to fill.

I feel seeing the Affleck/Damon scene in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is enough for me. That scene was pretty fucking hilarious.