"My boy's wicked smaht."Good Will Hunting
— Morgan (Casey Affleck)
is a 1997 drama film directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Matt Damon
and Ben Affleck
Set in Boston, Massachusetts, the film tells the story of Will Hunting (Damon), a troubled Irish-Catholic young man who is gifted with extraordinary mathematical skills (as well as being a prodigy and an autodidact), but works in a menial janitorial job at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Prone to violence and extremely loyal to his friends Chuckie (Affleck), Morgan (Casey Affleck) and Billy (Cole Hauser), Will has pushed away everyone else who's tried to get close to him because of his abusive past and introverted personality.
After solving a complex mathematical equation at the campus, Will is discovered by Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard), a Fields Medal-winning mathematician who sees a lot of potential in Hunting, and sends him to psychiatrist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams
), while at the same time, Hunting strikes up a relationship with the beautiful Skylar (Minnie Driver
), who is also confronting her own personal problems. Will must learn to overcome his deep fear of abandonment (with Maguire's help) in order to learn how to trust and love the people who care about him.
The film won two Academy Awards
, Best Original Screenplay for Affleck and Damon and Best Supporting Actor for Williams. See also Finding Forrester
, another Gus Van Sant
film about the discovery (and self-discovery) of an intelligent young man.
This film contains examples of:
- Almighty Janitor: A mathmatical genius who works as a literal janitor.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: Will admits to Skylar that he's been abused, and they get into an argument when Will believes she's only interested in him because she's trying to "save" him. Skylar tearfully pleads that she loves him, but Will walks out on her.
- Armor Piercing Statement: "It's not your fault."
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
Gerald: Where will you go?
Sean: India, China... and Baltimore.
- Ascended Meme :
Will: How do you like them apples?
- Award Bait Song: Elliot Smith's "Miss Misery", which is played over the end credits.
- Badass Beard: Maguire's beard.
- Berserk Button: Disrespecting Maguire's wife is a lethally stupid mistake.
- The Big Board: In Lambeau's classroom and the hallway at the college.
- Breaking Speech: Will pulls several off successfully. He also tries using one on Professor Lambeau, to avoid talking about his own feelings. Despite the words cutting Williams' character at first, the next time the two are together, Will gets a Lecture thrown right back at him.
- Brilliant but Lazy: Will could have been a success earlier in life but never showed off his mad math skills.
- Butt Monkey: Morgan is this among his friends.
- California Doubling: Toronto stands in for Boston in a handful of scenes.
- Cluster F-Bomb
- Cool Old Guy: Sean
- Deadpan Snarker: Will, almost constantly, and Sean, whose snark is a little less pronounced but all the more effective.
- Delusions of Eloquence: Chuckie when he poses as Will in the job interview.
- Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off: Will explains that his father psychologically tortured him by making him choose what item he would be beaten with (from a belt, stick or wrench). Will always chose a wrench as a "fuck you" to his father.
- E = MC Hammer: The completed algebraic equation given by Lambeau as a challenge is (in real life) a basic linear algebra problem. This is pretty advanced for most people (beyond calculus), but not for a college mathematics professor.
- Epiphany Therapy: Maguire helps Will turn a serious corner in his life and inspires him to be something more by getting Will to admit that it wasn't his fault that his father abused him.
- Epunymous Title
- Foreshadowing: Maguire is introduced teaching a community college class on psychology, specifically on the importance of trust. The only reason he's able to help Will is because Will trusts him.
- For Want of a Nail: Will's lengthy explanation of why he doesn't want to work for NSA.
- Genius Bruiser: Will.
- The Glasses Come Off: When Will presses Maguire's Berserk Button, he calmly takes them off in the background before unleashing a Tranquil Fury-infused death threat to Will.
- Good with Numbers: Will, obviously. Otherwise, he couldn't be a math genius.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Will and Chuckie, as are Damon and Affleck in real life.
- Hollywood Hype Machine: Affleck and Damon won an Academy Award for their script, and promptly became the biggest stars in Hollywood. They've parlayed that success into different avenues over the years, with Damon appearing to be much more critically and commercially consistent than Affleck, whose career petered out for a period of time in the mid 00's. However, Affleck has \reinvented himself as a well-respected director, a la Clint Eastwood, at the same time as Damon's career began to stagnate.
- Hollywood Law: A genius janitor tries to get his assault on a police officer (a serious charge) dismissed by saying it was "self-defense against tyranny". A college professor is allowed to intervene with a judge and speak on the student's behalf to get the charges deferred. A judge quotes two-hundred year old cases during Will's trial that have likely been superceded by current laws and decisions.
- Hollywood New England
- Immune to Mind Control: One of the psychologists they first take Will to tries to hypnotise him. Will pretends to recall an alien abduction for a minute, then jumps up and starts laughing.
- Much of Robin Williams' monologue about dating was ad-libbed.
- According to the filmmakers' commentary, Sean and Will's laughter in the scene when Sean talks about his wife's flatulence is genuine. The joke that really sent them off the deep end (not used in the actual film)?
- Informed Attribute: There's little display of Will's math genius in action. The most the audience sees is Will putting the final touch on several equations - otherwise, it's referenced by others. Enforced, because most moviegoers won't understand higher-level math and it wouldn't be good drama even if they did.
- To be clear, while there's minimal on-screen displays of his mathematical abilities, the audience repeatedly gets to witness to his overall brilliance first-hand, seeing him fire off and deconstruct whole pages of complex historical economics from memory, including page numbers, cite decades-old legal precedents during his trial, and demonstrate a thorough understanding of international geopolitical conflicts and their social, ethical and economic ramifications, which he eloquently summarizes in a spectacular monologue to a director of the NSA and then repeats verbatim to Sean hours later(which is when the audience gets to hear it).
- Intergenerational Friendship: Will is an isolated, delinquent, genius teenager from the slums of Boston, and Sean is a middle-aged, dissatisfied and lonely community college psychology professor.
- Jerkass: Apparently, the film title itself is not to be trusted, since Will himself is not a nice person.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Will and Lambeau (to a degree) fall under this; nice guys deep down but have a lot of crud on top because of crappy pasts.
- Just Think of the Potential: Human variation in regards to Will. When Lambeau and Maguire are in a bar discussing (heatedly at times) the former's motivations about why he's so interested in Will's mathematical genius, Lambeau argues by an Appeal to Obscurity that it's not about the fame for him - he goes over to the bartender Tim and asks whether he's heard of Jonas Salk ("Sure, cured polio") and Albert Einstein (Tim just laughs) before asking about Gerald Lambeau, Fields Medal receipient (Tim has not).
Lambeau: This isn't about me, Sean. I'm nothing compared to this young man.
- Maguire then flips it back on Lambeau by showcasing an example where exploting the potential isn't necessarily good: a 1960's University of Michigan graduate who did brilliant mathematics work, specifically in bounded harmonic functions. He later became an assistant professor at Cal-Berkeley, where he showed much potential. Then he moved to Montana "and blew the competition away."
Lambeau: Yeah, so who was he?
Sean: Ted Kaczynski.
Lambeau: Haven't heard of him.
Sean: (to Tim) Hey, Timmy!
Sean: Who's Ted Kaczynski?
- Justified Title: Trust, i.e. 'good will' is necessary for helping Will.
- MacGuffin: Will's math talents drive the plot of the film, but it's an Informed Attribute (see that trope above).
- Maybe Ever After: Will and Skylar
- Meaningful Echo: "I have to go see about a girl."
- Missing the Good Stuff: Maguire's story about Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.
- Mood Whiplash: Maguire shares a funny story with Will, of how his wife farted in her sleep, and they both burst out in belly laughs when Maguire says she farted so loudly she would wake the dog, and wake herself up. Maguire then bluntly states that his wife has been dead for two years. Will immediately starts to feel a tinge of guilt, having previously casually insulted his wife.
- The Mourning After: Discussed by Maguire during one of his monologues. It involves his dead wife.
- Odd Friendship: Maguire and Lambeau, although their relationship is strained, are revealed to have been old buddies and reconcile as the movie progresses.
- The One Who Made It Out: Inverted. Will wants to stay in Southie but Chuckie desperately want him to use his gifts to become the one who gets out.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
- Happens to Prof. Lambeau (played by Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard) occasionally.
- Robin Williams remembers to drop his r's every once in a while, but not enough to sound like a guy from Southie.
- Cant Catch Up: Lambeau, by Will. Agonizingly lampshaded by Lambeau himself.
- Photographic Memory: Played with. Maguire talks with Will about his ability to memorize books and analyze information fast, but not know the feelings, emotions and sensations that result from a lifetime of personal experiences.
- Power of Trust: Lambeau teaches this to a student by throwing an apple to him out of the blue, and asking what he learned from the experience.
- Product Placement: Chuckie always shows up to see Will with a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee for him.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Several times, including Chuckie's speech to Will, where he explains that Will is an idiot if he gives up the opportunities he's been handed.
Chuckie: Let me tell you something: if you're still here in twenty years, and you come over to watch the Patriots game, I'll fucking kill ya. And that's not a threat, that's a fact.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Maguire used to be in the military, and tells Will about the trauma of having a fellow soldier die in his arms.
- The Shrink: Maguire tries to help Will with his personal issues.
- Single Issue Psychology: Will (who has successfully fended off helpful and unhelpful psychotherapy throughout the movie) turns a corner (and successfully changes his outlook on relationships) at the end of the film by exchanging graphic memories with Sean about their respective abusive childhoods, then crying as Sean repeatedly tells him, "It's not your fault." It was cited by some critics as the one thing in the movie that seems like it was written by people as young as Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were at the time.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: Will has quite the filthy mouth.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Easy Listening music (Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street") plays during the brawl incited by Will & co.