Finding Themselves in ‘Good Will Hunting’


In “Good Will Hunting,” an orphan with a genius for math (Matt Damon) struggles with his future and conflicting loyalties to his South Boston street buddies (including Ben Affleck), a pretty college student (Minnie Driver) and two competing father figures--an MIT math professor (Stellan Skarsgard) and a caring therapist (Robin Williams). (Rated R.)


Written by young men, starring young men, showing young men bonding over beer, beat-up cars and life-altering decisions, “Good Will Hunting” is a guys’ soap opera that girls liked just as much. Maybe more.

“It had everything. It was sad. It was hilarious,” said Nasim Pedrad, 16, of Irvine. The film has replaced “Titanic” as her favorite movie of all time, she said. “It wasn’t like an expensive blockbuster. This is like a low-budget movie that touched me just as much.”


Not only was she attracted by the fact that stars Damon and Affleck wrote the script themselves as college students, but Damon also particularly endeared himself in his portrayal of Will Hunting, the boy genius with attitude. She called Damon “real” and “down to earth” and pronounced him even more attractive than “Titanic” heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio.

“I think he makes Leo look like an amateur.”

Her friend Deedee Nichols, 16, of Irvine, agreed. “This shows that Matt Damon is beyond good-looking. He’s a good actor,” she said. His buddy Affleck, who starred in “Chasing Amy” and “Going All the Way,” didn’t even register. “Was he the friend?” she asked.

In the movie, Will is on parole for assault and theft and working as a janitor at MIT when he solves a complex math theorem displayed on a chalkboard in the hall and is eventually unveiled as the “mystery math magician.”

A professor agrees to keep him out of jail if Will attends math sessions and goes to therapy. The only therapist who can reach him turns out to be another product of South Boston, a widower equally in need of rejoining the world.

While young women in the house wished the movie had continued on with the story, younger children complained the movie was too long. In the middle, one elementary school-age boy begged to go home.

Older teens, however, could relate to the struggles of an orphan, abused by foster parents, whose fierce loyalty to his homeboys threatens a potentially brilliant career.


“There were a lot of good messages,” said Cary Levine, 17, a high-school junior from Irvine, “about loyalty to your friends. One man’s future is not another man’s ideal future. It was one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time.”

While the movie has been labeled a “male weepy,” few young males admitted to tearing up in its most emotional moments: a scene in which Will avoids getting close to his girlfriend by telling her that he doesn’t love her, and the climax when the therapist makes him understand that his childhood problems were not his fault.

Though he felt sad in parts, Cary said he also laughed throughout the film--especially in parts where Will showed up the establishment with his intelligence and where Robin Williams got to display his signature humor.

“It had great, real issues,” he said. “And you walked out with a smile on your face.”


PARENTS’ PERSPECTIVE--”It’s not for small children,” said Jim Levine, who also felt that the ubiquitous strong street language was not inappropriate for older teens.

“There’s nothing out of context for the characters and where they lived,” he said. “It’s the way boys talk from 14 to 140. It’s very normal. I grew up in New Jersey. It’s the way guys talk.

“It’s definitely a good movie. It was all about relationships. Here was an individual who was isolated, and regardless of that, there were always ways to reach out to other people.”


The movie’s appeal is not limited to young men, he said. “My father, who’s 70, had seen the movie, and he thoroughly enjoyed it.”

What’s more, he added, “It might be an interesting perspective for women to see, as an insight to male relationships.”