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If it were not for Miramax Films, I sometimes wonder if there would be an outlet for great "little" films that the major studios tend to ignore. The Academy Award winning GOOD WILL HUNTING ($40) stands as one of those great "little" films that might not have gotten made had it not been for Miramax.

GOOD WILL HUNTING is a powerful piece of cinema that tells an uplifting story about an unlikely character. Matt Damon stars as Will Hunting, a lower middle class youth who was educated in the school of hard knocks and has all the emotional scars to prove it. What separates Will from his working class buddies is his brilliant mind. Actually, brilliant doesn’t go far enough to describe Will, his gift far exceeds even that of the professors at the university where he works as a janitor.

One day a professor leaves a mathematical problem on a blackboard as a challenge for his students. Will solves the problem and gets the attention of mathematics professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård). However, Will's self destructive temperament gets him into a legal scrape that Lambeau is able to resolve. To stay out of jail, Will must work with Lambeau to find a career and he must get psychological counseling. Will opts to stay out of jail, but goes out of his way to alienate every therapist Lambeau has him see. With little other choice, Lambeau calls upon an old college friend, psychology professor Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) to work with Will. Because of their similar background, Maguire turns out to be the only man up to the challenge of Will Hunting. Their sessions together start off rocky, yet both men eventually benefit from Will's therapy.

There isn't a single bad performance in GOOD WILL HUNTING. In fact, Robin Williams took home an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his truly stellar performance. I’ve been a fan of Williams since his early day in television, but his work in GOOD WILL HUNTING is truly mesmerizing. Minnie Driver delivers another standout performance as Skylar, the girl who captures Will's heart. Driver’s portrayal earned her one of the film’s nine Oscar nominations. Ben Affleck turns in a solid performance as Will's best friend Chuckie, while his brother Casey Affleck supplies much of the film's comic relief as Morgan. Director Gus Van Sant puts his actors through their paces getting the absolute best from each. But then again, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's Academy Award winning screenplay may have made the job easy for him.

GOOD WILL HUNTING has been released on DVD as part of the Miramax Collector's Series. Not only does the DVD offer a wide screen presentation of the film; the disc contains an interesting supplemental section as well. The Letterboxed transfer accurately recreates the film's 1.85:1 theatrical framing quite well, offering a well-balanced image. However, this presentation omits the 16:9 anamorphic enhancement for wide screen televisions. Despite the lack of the enhancement, the Letterboxed transfer looks superb. GOOD WILL HUNTING has a sharp, well-defined image that reproduces flawlessly. Even the film’s brightest moments, which might have been too hot and too difficult to reproduce on Laserdisc, look good on this DVD. Colors reproduce with excellent saturation and nary a hint of chroma noise. Digital compression artifacts were virtually nonexistent thanks to a dual layered presentation that maximized the bit rate.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has remarkable fidelity, but there is nothing showy about the mix. GOOD WILL HUNTING is a serious drama, which equals a lot of talking. Dialogue reproduction was clean sounding and the rest of the channels were utilized to give the track atmosphere. Danny Elfman's marvelous Academy Award nominated score is featured prominently in the mix, which makes the track well worth amplifying. English subtitles are available on the DVD.

The interactive menus are rather simplistic in design, offering no entertainment value of their own. Through the menus one can access the disc's nice array of supplements. Anyone who liked the film will want to check out the audio commentary featuring director Gus Van Sant and writers/stars Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. The commentary itself is very entertaining and quite interesting- definitely worth a listen. Based upon the comments of the participants, the audio commentary seems to have been prepared for the film’s Laserdisc release. Also included on the DVD are eleven deleted scenes, which also feature audio commentary. The deleted scenes are a very worthwhile supplement; the commentary gives the viewer an understanding of why the sequences were removed from the film. Additional supplements include a production featurette, a theatrical trailer, television commercials, footage utilized for the Academy Awards ceremony, behind-the-scenes footage and a music video for the song "Miss Misery."

While the $40 price tag is steep and the lack of the anamorphic enhancement is frustrating, GOOD WILL HUNTING is a terrific movie that deserves to be seen. Recommended at the very least for an evening’s rental.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 1998 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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