The success of Good Will Hunting was the kind of fairytale that Hollywood was never going to be able to resist. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, childhood best friends turned struggling actors, worked on a script together and shopped it around tirelessly until it finally fell into the lap of a big-shot producer who saw their potential.
Smash cut to the 1997 Academy Awards, a win for Best Screenplay accompanied by an adorable acceptance speech from the two twenty-somethings, and a long-overdue gong for a beloved member of Hollywood royalty just to seal the deal. The years certainly haven’t been kind to every player in this story, but Good Will Hunting remains an unusually pure kind of success story.
As an actual movie, it’s a bit more problematic. It’s still beloved by many – it currently sits at 88 on the IMDB top 250 movies of all time. However, it was also recently voted among the most overrated movies of all time in a poll, so you could argue that its legacy has been… divisive.
Personally, on re-watching for this week’s podcast, our opinions fell somewhere in the middle. There’s a lot to pick apart about the movie – the self-consciously writerly feel and incessant speechifying, the cloying sentimentality, not to mention the questionable moral about a fairly unpleasant kid who has done nothing to earn his apparent genius apparently being innately deserving of a free pass to fortune and privilege.
On the other hand, it’s undeniably sincere, and a great early showcase for a trio of future A-listers. The real draw is Robin Williams though, who sells the fairly hokey grieving widower sub-plot with real soul, and elevates it with some well-chose ad-lib – including the movie’s oft-quoted final line. His penchant for sentimentality became a bit of an albatross in his later years, but it’s fully earned here.
In this week’s episode, we discuss the movie in all the usual detail and break down all the most important discussion points – including Casey Affleck’s weird sex life, unrealistically enthusiastic maths students, Stellan Skarsgård as a skeevy professor and a whole lot of thick Boston accents.
As usual, we also brainstorm some drinking games, check in with our listeners and pitch some sequel ideas to revisit Will Hunting and co after twenty long, long years. Has time been kind? Tune in to find out…
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Next week, we’re sticking with the 1997 Oscars for another very of-the-moment success story from that year. Until then, happy listening and remember… it’s not your fault.