A Look Back: Good Will Hunting

If you are a troubled character in a Hollywood movie, who is seeking therapy, you have a few choices. You can go with the quirky, laid-back therapist, or you can find one who believes that seduction is a helpful method when thrashing out the issues in an adult patient. You may even find one who will analyze your sibling as well as you at the same time, like Barbra Streisand does with Nick Nolte and Melinda Dillon in “The Prince of Tides,” in what is apparently a two-for-one deal. But sleeping with your patient is not always necessary in forming a rapport and ultimately making a breakthrough, as a movie like “Good Will Hunting” proves.

In the movie, Matt Damon plays an angry young math genius who comes from a blue-collar background and is currently working at MIT as a janitor, when he’s not hanging out raising hell with his buddies, including his best friend (Ben Affleck). At the start, Matt attracts the attention of a professor (Stellan Skarsgard) when he casually solves an equation that Stellan has put on the board, in the hopes that by the end of the term, one of his students will have found the correct answer. Stellan tries to talk to Matt who gives him the brush-off, but then after Matt and friends get in minor trouble with the law, Stellan has better luck when he convinces his colleague (Robin Williams) to provide court-ordered therapy to Matt. Why the others get off scot free, I have never figured out, but anyway, Robin is a therapist in the mold of Judd Hirsch in “Ordinary People,” i.e. baggy cardigans, somewhat unkempt but capable of razor-sharp insight, able to think outside the box., etc. Let the meeting of two quirky minds begin.

Since Matt is already so advanced, him going to college is not really considered, but he keeps sabotaging job interviews that would give him more prospects than menial labor. He’s also just met a Harvard student, Minnie Driver, who he likes but again is conflicted about making a commitment. Of course, Robin’s job is to help Matt work through his ambivalence about the future, both personal and professional, in order to make him a little less a pissed off genius and a little more of an adult.

This movie doesn’t have a sequel, but in “Jay and Silent Bob Go to Hollywood,” both Matt and Ben make fun of the movie and Miramax, when they’re shown rehearsing on the “set” of “Good Will Hunting 2: It’s Hunting Season.” We don’t learn what happens after Matt takes off in pursuit of Minnie, but at least the movie skips the cliché of the one left behind showing up at the airport in the nick of time to prevent their loved one’s flight. But the odds are good, that they do manage to get back together.



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