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Overall Rating
3.76

Awesome: 25.66%
Worth A Look42.48%
Average: 17.7%
Pretty Bad: 10.62%
Total Crap: 3.54%

8 reviews, 65 user ratings


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Finding Forrester
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by Erik Childress

"Good Will Hunting Meets the Wiz"
2 stars

When you're Gus Van Sant and you've just directed what is widely considered by critics and movie fans alike to be one of the most misguided, ill-informed, blasphemous projects in the history of cinema (1998's "shot-by-shot" remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho), you've got quite a rebound ahead of you. What next? What next, he asks? Hey, everyone really liked that smart janitor movie. It won a couple Oscars. Why don't I remake that? Oh, but I already did that once and I want people to forget Psycho. How can I remake Good Will Hunting without calling attention to the fact that it's a remake. I know. I'll make the smart kid a black guy and give it a different title.

The smart kid this time is named Jamal and is played by Chicago newcomer Rob Brown. He lives in the inner city with his mom and plays basketball with his best buds. The court players are all transfixed on an upper story window overlooking the playground. Through the looking glass is a pair of binoculars and a mysterious silver-haired man who stares right back.

When Jamal is dared to break into the apartment, The Ghost (as the peeper is known), scares him out, leaving his backpack behind. The Ghost peeps some more and ends up grading Jamal's work. Is he a teacher? An editor? A proofreading hobbyist? Well, if you knew nothing about the story and failed to see any of the ads, you might assume so. But The Ghost is actually the famous (and fictional) reclusive novelist William Forrester (Sean Connery). Sort of a J.D. Salinger Catcher in the Hood, he begins to bond with the young novelist, who recluses his own talent from those around him. Sound like anyone you remember?

Jamal has just been accepted into an exclusive prep school where his skills on the playground come in much more handy than his skills with the page. Naturally, he feels out of place amongst the rich students, but the friendly Claire (Anna Paquin) is willing to lend a helping smile to show him around and maybe even induce some steady flirtation. But where there are friends, there are obstacles.

One of them is Claire's dad (Michael Nouri, who seems to have been hidden since from the big screen since 1987's The Hidden) who's none too happy with his little girl making goo goo doll eyes at a black man, and just happens to be on the school board. The other is Professor Henry Crawford (F. Murray Abraham, playing a character so one dimensional its like watching a stick figure on a diet) who wouldn't you know it, just happens to have an old grudge against Jamal's new secret mentor.

But isn't this a bonding picture between Jamal and Forrester? In a way, yes. But every minute that's spent straying from their scenes together really drives a wedge between where we'd like our emotions to be and where we recognize the cliches front and center. They have a few terrific scenes about the process of writing and a nicely acted sequence at a baseball stadium. These two characters, the Will Hunting and Sean Maguire substitutes, are the film's heart. Unfortunately, its brain dead on so many other levels.

A mystery surrounds why Forrester stopped writing and has remained an indoorsman for decades. The bigger mystery is why that guy with the BMW continues to run his errands. We learn a little here and there until Forrester finally gets not one, not two, but THREE big coming out parties. The first is handled well as he attends the aforementioned ballgame with Jamal. The second is a more solitary coming out, as Forrester pumps his bike up and then we sit back, watch him ride around some more and some more and think to ourselves, "geez, look at him ride to the theme of True Romance."

The third and final one should be the big emotional highpoint, but is instead treated with all the nonchalance of a striptease where the girl forgot to show up. We can't wait to hear what Forrester is going to say and read what he has in his hand, but instead, music is played over it…LOUDLY! Students sit back and the camera gazes upon their awe like a group of kids getting their first look at a Playboy.

Of course, the real coming out of the film though is supposed to be the performance of Rob Brown and indeed he has a naturalistic style that's going to benefit him greatly in the future. And as he does hold his own with Connery and in any scene where he challenges someone, other times his calm comes off as boring, as if he's not interested in anything that's going on around him, which is a tactical mistake for a character that absorbs so much knowledge.

Even Van Sant's direction appears to be an exercise in non-involvement, sometimes feeling like a documentary and other times like an amateur experimenting with their debut on 8mm. The big basketball game is amongst the worst sports sequences I've ever seen. Check out that crowd. You'd never be able to tell that it was a championship game. The only fulfillment of the story is in Sean Connery's wonderful portrayal as Forrester. It's the only hype worth believing in that this is truly one of his all-time great performances.

Poking similarity holes to Good Will Hunting here is easy, but did it have to be SO similar? A short script treatment might look something like this: Kid of the lower class hangs around with his loyal but not world-weary friends. Kid secretly harbors a passion for reading and writing that he hides from those he fears he may alienate. Kid puts into place an ignorant person who doubts his knowledge (in this case, the BMW guy). Kid finds an outlet for his passion in another who understands him.

All this stuff occurs in Finding Forrester and just when it couldn't possibly get more comparable, MATT DAMON SHOWS UP!!! He actually shows up, presumably to wonder why his story is being bastardized. Actually its for a conclusion that is so anti-climactic it feels like the outcome of a writer who just kept writing and writing, not knowing where he was headed, and forced himself to come up with an ending.

In a year that obviously was celebrating the writer, Finding Forrester could have been the ultimate summation. We've already seen Geoffrey Rush in Quills, Patrick Fugit in Almost Famous, and Michael Douglas in Wonder Boys and nothing in Forrester comes close to hitting the consummate perfection that Douglas' writer had with Tobey Maguire's in that great work. Finding Forrester actually becomes more With Honors than Good Will Hunting and could actually be named Good Jamal Hunting for The Wiz. And like the books people read in bed, this one may just put you to sleep.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=4615&reviewer=198
originally posted: 01/05/01 10:18:47
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User Comments

2/27/14 Madame de Merteuil Great movie about being a writer. Both leads are fab 5 stars
12/11/13 HMM hmm...hmm...well...what i think...what i think is that...i dont...i...I didnt watch it 1 stars
8/10/09 Jeff Wilder Connery good. But too commercial for Gus Van Sant. ANY director could've made this. 3 stars
3/03/08 ladavies great performances, well done 4 stars
2/18/08 Pamela White Connery makes the movie 5 stars
11/15/06 g money this movie is the opposite of bad 5 stars
11/11/06 Alli very good movie..jamal is quite the hottie 4 stars
10/12/06 The Cat definitley one of the best feel good movies released in 2000 5 stars
9/30/06 Tamara D. Leonard This is such a terrific movie. Such a feel good movie for me. 5 stars
12/21/05 nicole i want questions from the movie 1 stars
12/10/05 Quigley this story is really moving. connery was amazing, as was brown. totally worth seeing 5 stars
12/06/05 Katelyn It was amazing 4 stars
8/22/05 carissa it was kinda boring not my type of movie 3 stars
7/31/04 DM Corny and feels too much like "Good Will Hunting" 3 stars
6/20/04 venu Connery seems to get better with age...worth a watch 4 stars
6/14/04 MyGreenBed What a mess. This is the type of movie that insults my intelligence. Gus moved on, luckily. 1 stars
1/30/04 El Jono Connery and Brown are good, but Van Sant obviously thinks we, the audience, are pretty dumb 3 stars
11/01/03 Kate Mason i love it - beautiful cinematography and perfect script. 5 stars
11/16/02 Big Ted Connery's Oscar nod? 4 stars
7/11/02 Flounder It is a very heartfelt performance by Connery proving that he still has it. 4 stars
6/27/02 hjhbh gcfnnnnnfgcxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 5 stars
6/18/02 karen very good 5 stars
6/02/02 Chris This is a intellagant drama that has great preformances and a heartfelt storyline. 5 stars
2/22/02 Jeff good story but too long and often boring 4 stars
2/20/02 Xaver Good movie. Book was better. 4 stars
1/27/02 Rosie Finch Whackily interesting. But that's a YELLOW Warbler. To see Conn. W. out apt. window unherdof 4 stars
12/25/01 ryan above average movie w/ best basketball scenes since blue chips 4 stars
12/04/01 phil m. afficiando Agree with the detractors, but doggone it I liked it., so call me Mr. Gullible Sappy. 4 stars
11/30/01 Mr. Hat (formerly Joe Zappa) Sean Connery is an awesome actor. That's like the biggest reason I went to see it. 4 stars
8/29/01 hilary worth a look 4 stars
8/17/01 hilary worth a look 4 stars
8/15/01 hilary average 3 stars
7/29/01 Carolina Moos the best movie ever 5 stars
6/09/01 Girl 9 it was okay, but just seemed to drag on and on... 3 stars
6/04/01 Doug Smith Outstanding look at writing in specific and communication in general. 4 stars
5/29/01 Lauren It was awesome! It was inspiring and very clean! I LOVED IT! 5 stars
4/30/01 Leong Chee Hoe Best movie I have ever seen. It knock on your soul. 5 stars
4/29/01 Fred Worm The ending brought a tear to me eye. 4 stars
3/06/01 Bud Very good movie. We need more films that examine positive relationships. 5 stars
3/05/01 derek deems another 'good-feeling' movie which exactly followed the mold of a 'good-feeling' movie 3 stars
2/28/01 Anne predictable but enjoyable 3 stars
2/27/01 Matthew Bartley Nothing new but it's really well done 5 stars
2/26/01 Olga Tsirikidze I just love it!!!!!!!! 4 stars
2/24/01 Brad Sean Connery is Fucking Awesome and so is the movie 5 stars
2/21/01 edge The best movie i have seen in awhile 4 stars
2/12/01 bob buttons whenever you get some from a girl in a movie, that movie is awesome. 5 stars
2/11/01 anonymous its a one out of hundred special movie!!!!!!! 5 stars
2/08/01 anonymous very moving!!!!!!! 5 stars
2/07/01 anonymous a must see!!! 5 stars
2/05/01 Katie This was one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. Definitely see it. 5 stars
2/01/01 dcrockett Excellent - Left me wanting more. 5 stars
1/30/01 Charlie Hatch Great story, much better than most reviewers would lead you to beleive. 5 stars
1/28/01 James Teal Sean Connery is Brilliant, keeps your intrest the whole time. 4 stars
1/28/01 R Kramer Great!! You can't miss this movie. 5 stars
1/17/01 Kevin Good Movie!!! Not connerys best but all the same. A 5 stars
1/15/01 Diehard Quite strong performances from the actors, neat twists 4 stars
1/15/01 MAXOMENOS See this movie as if your life depended on it 5 stars
1/15/01 Lynnaea Aspiring authors will appreciate the authenticity of the comments about writing. 4 stars
1/12/01 ray really, if it doesn't win an oscar for something, I'll be pissed... 5 stars
1/11/01 Boy In The Designer Bubble I saw this movie. Forrester was never lost, and 007 never offered him a martini. 1 stars
1/07/01 Trikster Predictable,yes. Trailer gave alot away,yes. But, at the end of the film I still sat in awe 5 stars
1/05/01 Philm Phreak Been there, done that - STILL liked it! 4 stars
12/28/00 Jon Connery and Brown have great chemistry. And Anna Paquin is delightfully sexy. Great film! 5 stars
12/27/00 Clarance Great story, relatively predictable, but none the less great acting! and great theme! 4 stars
12/26/00 poetchuck Good characters, enjoyable time 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  12-Jan-2001 (PG-13)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  29-Mar-2001 (M)


Directed by
  Gus Van Sant

Written by
  Mike Rich

Cast
  Sean Connery
  F. Murray Abraham
  Anna Paquin
  Michael Pitt
  Busta Rhymes
  Joey Buttafuoco



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