Fifteen years ago, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were, relatively speaking, nobodies. They were the equivalent of Harrison Ford cleaning hallways pre-Star Wars or Jeremy Renner pre-Hurt Locker. But when they sold the rights to their script, Good Will Hunting, they found themselves starring in their own story, thanks to the belief of Harvey Weinstein. And a few months later, they were officially stars.
Looking back at GWH, the story still moves me, and the performances shine. Robin Williams serves up a powerful appearance as Sean, the psychology professor who helps young math prodigy Will (Damon) get in touch with his inner pain and sort out his own identity. In the special features, “Reflecting on a Journey: Good Will Hunting 15 Years Later,” we see the impact of Williams himself on the movie, and on Damon and Affleck’s ability to be who they were in character.
The special features lend more credit to director Gus Van Sant than you might have initially considered; winning the Academy Award for the screenplay (Damon and Affleck) and Best Supporting Actor (Williams) meant that the other seven nominations got left behind. But Van Sant cultivated his two young would-be stars, and years later, action star and director in their own right, Damon and Affleck have grown considerably.
With all of the 15th Anniversary special features, the correlation between the fresh start that two struggling actors living in L.A. received thanks to the movie, and the fresh start that Will received thanks to emotional therapy from Sean, seems obvious. Neither succeeds without the other, neither survives without the honest input of others, whether it’s Kevin Smith, Van Sant, or Weinstein in the real world, or Skylar’s (Minnie Driver) love within the movie.
Too often, we think we’ve “made it” on our own. That quote (I think Isaac Newton) about standing on the shoulders of giants? We see Affleck and Damon’s success, and yet, they both acknowledge that they made it because of the help of so many others. Do you see that in your life? As a society, do we get that? We haven’t made it this far without our families, our friends, the love and grace of a Creator God. God didn’t walk away and leave us to take care of ourselves; God constantly provides us the grace to get up in the morning, to learn from our mistakes, to move forward.
Recognizing the grace of Good Will Hunting, we can see that we all need forgiveness, some tough love, and a few breaks to get to where we need to go. It’s part of living, and without it, we’ll never find what we’re looking for.