# Good Will Hunting

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Good Will Hunting
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGus Van Sant
Written by
Produced byLawrence Bender
Starring
CinematographyJean-Yves Escoffier
Edited byPietro Scalia
Music byDanny Elfman
Production
company
Be Gentlemen[1]
Distributed byMiramax Films[1]
Release date
• December 2, 1997 (Bruin Theater)
• December 5, 1997 (United States)
Running time
126 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[1]
LanguageEnglish
Budget$10 million[2] Box office$225.9 million[3]

Good Will Hunting is a 1997 American psychological drama film directed by Gus Van Sant, and starring Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver and Stellan Skarsgård. Written by Affleck and Damon, the film follows 20-year-old South Boston janitor Will Hunting (Damon), an unrecognized genius who, as part of a deferred prosecution agreement after assaulting a police officer, becomes a patient of a therapist and studies advanced mathematics with a renowned professor (Skarsgård). Through his therapy sessions, Will re-evaluates his relationships with his best friend (Affleck), his girlfriend, and himself, facing the significant task of confronting his past and thinking about his future.

The film received positive reviews from critics and grossed over $225 million during its theatrical run against a$10 million budget. At the 70th Academy Awards, it received nominations in nine categories, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won in two: Best Supporting Actor for Williams and Best Original Screenplay for Affleck and Damon.

In 2014, it was ranked at number 53 in The Hollywood Reporter's "100 Favorite Films" list.[4]

## Plot

Twenty-year-old Will Hunting of South Boston is a natural genius who is self-taught. He works as a janitor at MIT and spends his free time drinking with his friends Chuckie, Billy, and Morgan. When Professor Gerald Lambeau posts a difficult combinatorial mathematics problem on a blackboard as a challenge for his graduate students, Will solves the problem anonymously, stunning both the students and Lambeau. As a challenge to the unknown genius, Lambeau posts an even more difficult problem. Will flees when Lambeau catches him writing the solution on the blackboard late at night. At a bar, Will meets Skylar, a British woman about to graduate from Harvard College, who plans on attending medical school at Stanford.

The next day, Will and his friends fight a gang that contains a member who used to bully Will as a child. Will is arrested after he attacks a responding police officer. Lambeau sits in on his court appearance and watches Will defend himself. He arranges for him to avoid jail time if he agrees to study mathematics under Lambeau's supervision and participate in psychotherapy sessions. Will tentatively agrees but treats his therapists with mockery. In desperation, Lambeau calls on Dr. Sean Maguire, his college roommate, who now teaches psychology at Bunker Hill Community College. Unlike other therapists, Sean actually challenges Will's defense mechanisms. During the first session, Will insults Sean's deceased wife, and Sean threatens him—but after a few unproductive sessions, Will finally begins to open up.

Will is particularly struck by Sean's story of how he met his wife, who later died of cancer, by giving up his ticket to the historic game six of the 1975 World Series, after falling in love at first sight. Sean does not regret his decision. This encourages Will to build a relationship with Skylar, though he lies to her about his past and is reluctant to introduce her to his friends or show her his rundown neighborhood. Will also challenges Sean to take an objective look at his own life, since Sean cannot move on from his wife's death.

Lambeau sets up a number of job interviews for Will, but Will scorns them by sending Chuckie as his "chief negotiator", and by turning down a position at the NSA with a scathing critique of the agency's moral position. Skylar asks Will to move to California with her, but he refuses and tells her he is an orphan, and that his foster father physically abused him. Will breaks up with Skylar and later storms out on Lambeau, dismissing the mathematical research he has been doing. Sean points out that Will is so adept at anticipating future failure in his interpersonal relationships that he deliberately sabotages them in order to avoid emotional pain. Chuckie likewise challenges Will over his resistance to taking any of the positions he interviews for, telling Will he owes it to his friends to make the most of opportunities they will never have, even if it means leaving one day. He then tells Will that the best part of his day is a brief moment when he waits on his doorstep thinking Will has moved on to something greater.

Will walks in on a heated argument between Sean and Lambeau over his potential. Sean and Will share and find out that they were both victims of child abuse. Sean helps Will to see that he is a victim of his own inner demons and to accept that it is not his fault, causing him to break down in tears. Will accepts one of the job offers arranged by Lambeau. Having helped Will overcome his problems, Sean reconciles with Lambeau, deciding to take a sabbatical. Will's friends present him with a Chevrolet Nova for his 21st birthday so he can commute to work. Later, Chuckie goes to Will's house to pick him up, only to find that he is not there, much to his happiness. Will sends Sean a letter telling him to tell Lambeau that he had to go "see about a girl", revealing he passed on the job offer and instead is heading to California to reunite with Skylar.

## Production

### Development

Matt Damon started writing the film as a final assignment for a playwriting class he was taking at Harvard University.[5] Instead of writing a one-act play, Damon submitted a 40-page script.[5] He wrote his then-girlfriend, medical student Skylar Satenstein (credited in the closing credits of the film), into his script. (Satenstein later married Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich.)[6] Damon said the only scene from that script that survived – "it survived verbatim" – was when Will Hunting (Damon) meets his therapist, Sean Maguire (Robin Williams).[5] Damon asked Ben Affleck to develop the screenplay together. They completed the script in 1994.[5] At first, it was written as a thriller about a young man in the rough-and-tumble streets of South Boston who possesses a superior intelligence and is targeted by the government with heavy-handed recruitment.[5]

### Critical response

On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 98% based on 82 reviews, with an average rating of 8.00/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "It follows a predictable narrative arc, but Good Will Hunting adds enough quirks to the journey – and is loaded with enough powerful performances – that it remains an entertaining, emotionally rich drama."[33] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 70 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[34] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[35]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four, writing that while the story is "predictable", it is "the individual moments, not the payoff, that make it so effective".[36] Duane Byrge of The Hollywood Reporter praised the performances of the cast, writing "The acting is brilliant overall, with special praise to Matt Damon for his ragingly tender portrayal of the boy cursed with genius".[37] Peter Stack of the San Francisco Chronicle was equally positive, writing "The glow goes well beyond a radiant performance by Matt Damon ... Intimate, heartfelt and wickedly funny, it's a movie whose impact lingers".[38] Owen Gleiberman, writing for Entertainment Weekly, gave the film a "B", stating "Good Will Hunting is stuffed – indeed, overstuffed – with heart, soul, audacity, and blarney. You may not believe a minute of it, but you don't necessarily want to stop watching". He also noted Damon's and Williams' chemistry, describing it as "a quicksilver intercepting each other's thoughts".[39] Janet Maslin of The New York Times, called the screenplay "smart and touching", and praised Van Sant for directing with "style, shrewdness and clarity". She also complimented the production design and cinematography, which were able to effortlessly move the viewer from "classroom to dorm room to neighborhood bar", in a small setting.[40]

Quentin Curtis of The Daily Telegraph opined Williams' performance brought "sharpness and tenderness", calling the film a "crowd-pleaser, with bags of charm to spare. It doesn't bear thinking too much about its message ... Damon and Affleck's writing has real wit and vigour, and some depth".[41] Andrew O'Hehir of Salon stated that despite the "enjoyable characters", he thought the film was somewhat superficial, writing "there isn't a whole lot of movie to take home with you ... many will wake the next morning wondering why, with all that talent on hand, it amounts to so little in the end".[42] Writing for the BBC, Nev Pierce gave the film four stars out of five, describing the film as "touching, without being sentimental", although he felt some scenes were "odd lapses into self-help speak".[43] Emanuel Levy of Variety called the film a "beautifully realized tale ... engaging and often quite touching". He felt that the film's visual style showcased Van Sant's talent, but the plot was "quite predictable".[44]

### Academic response

Several scholars have examined the film as a portrayal of residual Catholic–Protestant tensions in Boston, as Irish Catholics from Southie are aligned against ostensibly Protestant characters who are affiliated with Harvard and MIT.[45]

### Accolades

70th Academy Awards[46]
Won: Academy Award for Best Supporting ActorRobin Williams
Won: Academy Award for Best Original ScreenplayBen Affleck & Matt Damon
Nominated: Academy Award for Best PictureLawrence Bender (producer)
Nominated: Academy Award for Best DirectorGus Van Sant
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Actor – Matt Damon
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Supporting ActressMinnie Driver
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Film EditingPietro Scalia
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic ScoreDanny Elfman
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Original Song – "Miss Misery" (music and lyrics by Elliott Smith)
55th Golden Globe Awards
Won: Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay – Ben Affleck & Matt Damon[47]
Nominated: Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama[48]
Nominated: Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama – Matt Damon[48]
Nominated: Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture – Robin Williams[48]
4th Screen Actors Guild Awards
[49]
Won: Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role – Robin Williams
Nominated: Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Nominated: Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role – Matt Damon
Nominated: Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role – Minnie Driver
Other Major Awards / Nominations
Won: Silver Bear for an outstanding single achievement, Berlin International Film Festival – Matt Damon[50]
Won: Humanitas Prize for Feature Film – Matt Damon & Ben Affleck[51]
Nominated: Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures – Gus Van Sant[52]
Nominated: Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen – Ben Affleck & Matt Damon[53]

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