Thursday, October 19, 2006

Good Will Hunting

I like trying different genres of writing from time to time. Next on the agenda is a play (we are reading Cyrano de Bergerac in a book club I'm part of ). However, out of pure curiosity, I decided to try a screenplay.
I first remember skimming through the screenplay of Pulp Fiction in a bookshop a few years back. The words lept out at me in a way the dialog on screen didn't.
So, when a cursory search on the local library database indicated that the screenplay for a personal favorite, Good Will Hunting was 'on shelf' (versus having to put a hold on it and wait for it to be returned), I took it as a sign and picked it up then and there.

Film, needless to say, is a very visual medium and the screenplay reflects it. Physical descriptions of characters are more detailed, and there's scenery descriptions much more detailed than in a play. There are moving shots, descriptions of shots of the Boston skyline, the Charles River and so on. Since a spare film in terms of its setting (it's fully set in Boston), it's less so than, say, a Lord of the Rings would be.
The film narrates a short period in the life of Will Hunting, an orphan genius who works as a janitor in MIT. He is 'discovered' by a mathematics professor, and along the way, meets a psychologist - an equal to his genius and attitude. The film is very Hollywood and triumphant in some ways, celebrating 'smarts' over 'intellectualism' - as director Gus Van Sant puts it succinctly in the foreword.
But the dialog. Oh, the dialog. Crisp, quirky and celebrating the art of the repartee, it makes the film what it is. It is hard to imagine two young Hollywood actors writing this script. Especially not young actors whose names are Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. But they did, and they did well enough to win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
I've seen the film and it's hard to imagine reading this and making a lot of it without seeing Robin Williams as Sean and Matt Damon as Will. That's the bane of reading a book adapted into a movie after watching the movie or reading a screenplay. It's difficult to immerse yourself and create a world of your own. The world-vision you have of it is slightly contaminated by what you've seen before.

But this has been an immensely enjoyable journey into the world of Will Hunting.

Skylar: Maybe we should go out for coffee sometime?

Will: Great, or maybe we could go somewhere and just eat a bunch of caramels.

Skylar: What?

Will: Come to think of it, it's just as arbitrary as drinking coffee.


Javed said...

GWH is one of my favorite movies. The best part the conversation between Ben Affleck Matt Damon towards the end of the movie. Then again it's written by the duo so I guess everyone knew the lines.

Ajay said...

I'm partial to the exchanges between Robin Williams and Matt Damon, but the whole movie itself is so well-written. Another aspect of the movie I like is the easy rapport between the gang of friends that Matt has. It's easy to see why he'd be so loath to give them up.