The story of Good Will Hunting is a truly enriching one. Focusing on the troubles and struggles of a south Boston boy who discovers his passion for high-level Mathematics while working as a janitor at Harvard, the film sees the self-taught genius trying to navigate his new life alongside his old one. Starring Matt Damon as Will Hunting and Ben Affleck as his best friend, perhaps the finest part of the film is the connection between Will and his therapist Dr Sean Maguire.
Released in 1997 and written primarily by Damon and Affleck, the film announced the pair as future stars of Hollywood, capturing itself some star prizes simultaneously. Not only did Affleck and Damon pick up the award for Best Original Screenplay, but Williams picked up his own Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. In truth, it could well be Williams’ best role.
Williams plays a pivotal role in the plot as the anointed psychology professor, selected by Hunting’s professor Dr Lambeau, who is the only one able to get through to the troubled genius. Lambeau takes on Hunting as part of saving him from a prison conviction for assaulting a police officer. The Harvard professor selects Maguire (Williams) as the perfect conduit to Hunting’s future success. The film provides a platform for Robin Williams to deliver one of his most sensitive dramatic performances.
“It’s something more than a movie; it’s something like an emotional experience” for people, Williams said of the film. “The painful stuff comes because it’s spoken so simply. That’s kind of the beauty of it. The more intimate and personal it is, the more it touches people. The more honest you are, the more it reaches out.”
While the film certainly offered Williams a chance to flex his dramatic muscles, you can’t take the comedy out of a comedian, and he contributed one of the funniest scenes of the film off the top of his head. The scene is set when Maguire starts to describe his now-deceased wife. Clearly enjoying the trip down memory lane, Hunting indulges him and asks questions about his therapist’s former spouse.
Instead of following the script, Williams goes off-piste and begins improvising as Maguire: “She used to fart in her sleep. One night it was so loud it woke the dog up. She woke up and was like, ‘Oh, was that you?’ I’d go, ‘Yeah’ – I just didn’t have the heart to tell her,” he laughs. Damon, still trying to maintain his role as Hunting, quickly breaks down in fits of laughter.
It remains one of the most touching moments of the film and a reminder of Williams’ warm and comforting comedy. Watch the scene below.
Good Will Hunting is available on Netflix now.