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Movie Review

Good Will Hunting

MPAA Rating: R for strong language, including some sex-related dialogue

Reviewed by: Dave Rettig

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
2 hr. 6 min.
Year of Release:

Starring: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Stellan Skarsgård, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver / Director: Gus Van Sant / Released by: Miramax

“Good Will Hunting” is the tale of Will Hunting (Matt Damon), a stereotypical slacker with an extraordinary talent for math. Rebellious and callous, Will desires little more than his blue collar job and his beer drinking friends. When a run in with the law places him in the custody of M.I.T. professor of mathematics (Stellan Skarsgård) and under the counsel of psychologist Sean McGuire (Robin Williams), Will must face the past and discover what really matters in his life.

Written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, this movie is reminiscent of a number of the “baby buster” films of late. The audience is left with a desire for more. More history, more of the story, more of the fate of the characters. We also taste the angst of the writers reflected in the apathetic attitude and almost meaningless despair in each of the parts. The acting is very well done, the characters are believable, the story is a bit slow paced, but holds your interest for the duration of the film. It is unfortunate that we do not see more of Robin Williams comedic talent, as this may have taken some of the dark edge off the plot.

“Good Will Hunting” contains profanity, violence, sexual dialogue, and adult situations. The film is rated R, but this is a rather mild R (but definitely merited for the extensive profanity and adult situations). The overall story line is one of a man facing the consequences of his abusive past and seeking meaning in life. Will Hunting discovers that his intellect has left him empty. His friends have not fulfilled his life. Unfortunately, Will Hunting does not find meaning in Christ but in pursuing a relationship with a medical student (Minnie Driver). This film reminds me of Ecclesiastes 1:18 (NIV) “the more knowledge, the more grief.”

All said “Good Will Hunting” is entertaining, mildly amusing and somewhat touching. Definitely not for children. A possible choice for adults; however, I am certain that there are better choices.

Viewer Comments
Foul language and sexual content—fabulous theme and acting. A christian friend told me that if I could get past the langauage, this is a superb and powerful film. I agree. The language and filthy content is overboard even considering the ghetto-like environment. I would suggest, however, that Jesus would hang out with people like these. Moreover, I found the themes of friendship, love and facing one’s past and emotional confusion to be inspiring indeed. Robin Williams definitely deserves his Academy Award for best supporting actor, and this is a very well written movie. The language is disturbing, so I leave it up to you whether to watch—if you can get past the language, this is a superb and powerful film.
—Todd Adams, age 31
Against my better judgment, I went to a screening of “Good Will Hunting” last evening. For those of you wishing to better invest six dollars and two hours, the movie is an updated, R-rated rendition of “The Bowery Boys Meet Sigmund Freud” with less comedy and more angst. Robin Williams is thrown in as a secular Father O'Malley, Irish accent and all, but without the songs.
—Sandy Kramer, age 52
When I saw this movie, I decided that this movie reminded me of an old Pilgrim movie (wait, I’m not through). In the old Pilgrim or any sea-faring movie, there was usually a scene in which the flour barrel was opened, and found to be teeming with vermin of one sort or another. There was plenty of good flour in there, but you had to get past/through the vermin. I feel that there is a tremendous movie underneath the vermin in this movie (the blatant profanity; the obigatory love scene though it was toned down; and the violence of a basketball court fight). Once you get past the vermin, you can enjoy the sensitivity of this movie. It was worth seeing. On a Christian level, there’s little to say good about this film. Robin Williams made a good counselor, but Jesus is still the best there is at healing wounds.
—Jerome Bush, age 45
If you don’t think that the language in this movie is realistic, then you are out of touch with how lost the youth of America is today and how they chose to express themselves. I don’t like to hear the F-word myself, but every time I hear it from someone like Will, it remind that in many cases, they simply don’t care.

We as Christians should be more concerned with someone’s apathy rather than the appropriateness of their speech… Start looking at what someone’s outward actions say about heart. Have compassion, and try to understand their world rather than expect them to fit into yours… [Regarding the comment] “It is unfortunate that we do not see more of Robin Williams comedic talent, as this may have taken some of the dark edge off the plot” baffles me… The movie was about the dark sides! Yes, it was also about hope, but it dealt with the scared, unsure, and lost feelings that lie within us all.

Whether we are an award winning mathematician, a psychiatrist, or a tough kid raised in foster homes. How effective do you think this message would have been had Robin Williams come out with his usual impressions and voices?… This is another example of how we as Christians are always wanting the things of this world to fall within our comfort zone. Jesus left his safe confines to become one of us.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, he went on to spend his time with the worst of us.

The reason that I have been so defensive of Good Will Hunting is because I was truly inspired by this movie and agree with the person who said that they hadn’t been inspired by a movie like this since “Dead Poets Society.” Personally, it reminded me that even though we may have to endure many hardships before we recognize the gifts and opportunities that God has given us, we all have the chance to do much more than we often aspire to do. Two young men who are in the midst of figuring out life themselves, felt inspired and convicted enough to write “Good Will Hunting” in hopes of challenging people to think about life’s deeper meaning.

As Christians, I don’t see how we can criticize their efforts. We who know the truth should be the one’s making movies about life’s deeper meaning. We have the answers yet find it easier to sit back and find shortcomings in the world. At least these guys took a stab at making a difference with what little certainty they had.

Maybe this movie will inspire some young Christian man or woman, who was able to to look past Will’s faults and relate him in some way, to make an impact of their own. Maybe then there will be more movies and books that end with the main character finding God instead of the girl.
—J.D. Knutsen, age 23
For those of us who come from abusive backgrounds, this film will come as a powerful, yet healing and promising form of therapy. I have read some of the comments from Christians who were offended by the profanity and alleged sexual content. Get a life, people! This is reality. This was Will Hunting’s reality—a reality that robbed him of hope and confidence.

I am glad the film was laced with profanity. It was real and that is why it hit me so much. The scene in which Will breaks down in the climactic moment of healing with Sean tore me apart and reminded me of a my own personal hell. I felt for Will because I have lived what he has lived. I don’t want my movies sugar coated so that they don’t offend… Christian[s].

The world is a rough place with all kinds of pain and angst. I have worked in the police business and have seen every imaginable kind of pain and horror man is capable of. Much of it was inflicted on me as a child. But through the coming to grips with such horror, only then can the healing begin.

“Good Will Hunting” is one of the best forms of therapy available for $8. I was blessed by this movie and that is why I will see it several times over. For those of you offended by the language and God-knows-what-else, look at the bigger picture and be thankful you weren’t one of the abused. I’ll be a friend of Will’s any day, regardless of where he lives, how he speaks or how he dresses and whether he accepts Christ or not. Will is real. His pain was real and his healing just as real.
I really enjoyed the film, on another level than I have been able to enjoy movies in the past. To me, this film showed me that I was prioritizing the wrong things in my life. I feel that if somebody didn’t appreciate this movie, it simply means that they can’t relate to his character. Myself, being a teenager, has to deal with many situations portrayed in this film. I am a Christian, and even though this movie doesn’t have much of God in it, I still feel that if you look deeper, you will see what God was trying to say… In my opinion, “Good Will Hunting” may have been the best movie I have ever seen.
—Wendy M.
I often scoff at the reviews by people who admit that they haven’t seen the film, but still have something to add. But now I’m joining the crowd and throwing in my two cents. Pick a review submitted to Spotlight and you’ll find reference to the excessive profanity in this film. One reviewer wished she had brought a counter to count the number of “f-words” used. There is no need.

According to the helpful internet site SCREEN IT, (which I highly recommend), there are 139 uses of this word alone. I don’t buy the realism argument—that this is the way people talk so that’s why it belongs in the movie. I’m a high school teacher. I get enough of this language for free everyday, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s ridiculous to pay for it.
—Josh, age 23
Although I felt continually assualted by the extensive profanity, my husband was less affected because that is the way people talk in his world at work—he has had to learn to get past their overused expressions and listen to what they’re really saying. I was glad to see Robin Williams in this dramatic role, and I don’t believe this movie was the place for his comedic talent to be shown. None of us want to always be expected to play the clown. While we do not view many “R” rated movies, this one left me both saddened and rejoicing.

I was saddened by once again seeing a picture of the purposelessness of life without God, but I rejoiced at the relationship between Will and Sean. We all need to learn to be honest in our relationships. If everyone who sees this film can learn that stuffing our emotions in a locked place is unhealthy, they will be one step closer to looking to God, because He speaks to us through these “cries of our soul.”

Most of you will choose to not see this movie, but if you have friends or co-workers who do watch it, it may be a good springboard for a discussion about how God reveals His heart to us in our emotional reaction to our lifes' happenings. Just because the movie didn’t go there doesn’t mean that we can’t go there in our conversations about it.
—Bailey Olfert, age 29
As a Christian, my opinion of this film is dismal and I would not recommend it. As a matter of fact, even if I weren’t a Christian—I wouldn’t recommend it. Overkill on the profanity and yes most all of us have come from not-so-perfect families. Does that give us a reason to act like jerks (with brains or not). The smart dude wasn’t so smart as his friend had more brains about life than he. Also it was slow moving, totally predictable and were it not for Robin Williams the movie would’ve been a real bust. Save your coins and catch it at the $2.00 movie theater or on video and only do that after you’ve viewed most all other movies!!
—Joyce Books
Overall, I loved the movie. The acting was excellent and the story was great. However, the profanity was absloutely overwhelming. I found it hard to get into the story because of the amount of profanity used. I realize that people on the street talk like that, and if some profanity was used in the movie to make it seem realistic, I can even understand that. But this was way, way out of line.

I can’t believe that even kids on the street use THAT MUCH profanity. If I had nothing better to do with my time I would buy a hand-held counter and see the movie again and click the counting device every time they said the “f” word, just to see how many hundreds of times it was used. I do believe it was probably used 200 times or more. I felt like I was seeing something starring Eddie Murphy or Richard Pryor. It was so unnecessary. I really feel that it undermined the other redeeming qualities of the film.
—Bobbi, Age 42
I thought this was a very positive film. Although there is extensive use of the f-word, which made me uncomfortable, given the background of the boys in the film I suppose they were accurately portrayed. Robin Williams gives an amazing performance (perhaps his best since “Dead Poets Society”)--I prefer him in the more serious roles. If you have ever known a young person like the boy portrayed by Matt Damon (and I have) you will certainly relate to this film and go away with a good feeling in your heart.
—Leigh Dawson, age 38
I saw “Good Will Hunting” with my husband on the weekend of our 23rd wedding anniversary. We were disappointed with the profanity rampant throughout the film as well as the sexual humor. However, and this is a big however, we talked more about that film in succeeding days than we have about any film we’ve seen in a long time.

This was a story full of meaning and reality, love and healing. I felt it was a window into a world foreign to me and to a generation and a culture I know only from the outside looking in. We may not like the seamy reality of the lives portrayed in “Good Will Hunting”, but the raw talent and rare insight of these young scriptwriter/actors is something to behold. I suggest if you’re an adult and appreciate art and reality, you behold it.
—Kimberley McKaig, age 43
Robin Williams' performance was poignant and touching, completely appropriate for this script: it didn’t need to fall back onto his comedy… This is an incredible movie, wonderful story, amazing acting…
—Jeri Look
The underlying themes of “Good Will Hunting” were undeniably love and healing. If Christ is not embodied in this, then where else do we find him? Although the movie did not include some trite, blatant recognition or acceptance of Christ, it was a remarkably realistic portrayal of a young man’s journey from entrapping pain to healing through the power of love. Robin Williams' character was the Christ figure in that he gave himself in love to someone in need. “Good Will Hunting” makes an incredible statement on the importance of friendship, the strength of love, and the hope for healing.
—Amy and Lyndie, age 19
Movie has a good storyline. If they had taken out the vulgar language and sexual inuendos, of which there are too many, I would have enjoyed the movie. However, I left the theater with a bad taste in mouth. Wish I had selected a better movie. What have we become when we find movies like this acceptable. God have mercy on us.
—J.T. Gearin
This is a powerful film with a strong message of hope set in the dark despair of inner city living. It does not take too much imagination to see a salvation theme emerge as Will Hunting is prodded, encouraged, chastised and broken by his psychiatrist, allowing him to move beyond life lived only within the confines of his own horizens.

If one removes the mosaic of vulgar language that functions as the “glue” of this film, one would find a film that most Christians would applaud. But it takes a deeper reading of the subtext of this movie than many will be prepared to give. This film has all the elements needed for a successful film: someone to love, a sense of jeaporady, a plot that moves continually forward, and characters that have depth. It is remarkable that such a profound script comes from such young scriptwriters.
—Burton Buller