It’s almost hard to believe that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, now two of the biggest names in Hollywood, were once unknowns. Yet, it wasn’t until 1997, with the release of Good Will Hunting that the struggling duo finally “made it.” But when they hit, they hit it big, for Good Will Hunting, a film that the pair both wrote and starred in, garnered nine Academy Award nominations. Of the nine, the film took home the Oscars for Best Supporting Actor (Robin Williams) and Best Original Screenplay (Damon and Affleck). And the film proved to be a significant moment in the careers of everyone involved, including Robin Williams and director Gus Van Sant in addition to Damon and Affleck. Fifteen years later, Lionsgate Home Entertainment offers viewers the chance to revisit this landmark in modern American cinema in a special features-packed Anniversary Edition Blu-ray.
The film does indeed feature a wonderful, Oscar-worthy screenplay. In particular, the speeches Damon and Affleck wrote for the psychiatrist character played by Robin Williams, especially those in which he discusses his relationship with his late wife, reveal the writing team to have possessed a wisdom beyond their years when they penned the picture. In fact, each and every other key player in the film’s narrative displays a comparably impressive level of humanity and vulnerability. In addition, the film boasts the directing talents of Gus Van Sant, one of the most influential filmmakers working in American art cinema. The talent Van Sant developed in his earlier work to interpret his characters’ emotional states as a visual aesthetic serves him well here, even if the film necessarily exhibits a far more conventional aesthetic than his previous works had.
Perhaps in part due to its conventionality, I’ve always had a strained relationship with Good Will Hunting. Although I always find viewing it rewarding, it’s a film that never quite sticks with me. Certain moments remain fixed in my memory, such as Williams’ speech about regret, but on the whole, I find the memory of my experience of it fades quickly. This is not the case with other works of Gus Van Sant. My Own Private Idaho, for instance, which I’ve seen just as many times as Good Will Hunting, remains indelibly etched in my memory. Even as of this review, having seen Good Will Hunting in the last week and My Own Private Idaho perhaps a year ago, I can still recall Idaho with greater detail than Good Will. Of course, Good Will Hunting is still a far more memorable feature than either his remake of Psycho or Finding Forrester, but I could hardly go into their problems here.
The Good Will Hunting: 15th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray features a solid, but not quite pristine, transfer of the film, which exhibits a fair amount of damage in the source elements if you pay really close attention. Additionally, the color saturation between sequences tends to be a tad inconsistent throughout, as does the brightness, but the inconsistency is, for the most part, negligible. So if you’re wrapped up in the characters and the narrative, which I think is inevitable here, you likely won’t even notice. As a whole, however, the image transfer is sharp and beautiful, showcasing the wonderful cinematography of Jean-Yves Escoffier with excellent detail.
The 15th Anniversary Edition’s special features combine a handful of new features with a slew of returning ones, including:
-the brand new “Reflecting on a Journey: Good Will Hunting 15 Years Later,” an incredibly thorough and illuminating, four-part retrospective on the film’s production, reception and legacy featuring extensive interviews with cast and crew;
-the brand new “Matt Damon Remembers Good Will Hunting,” in which Damon reminisces on the experience of the film for him personally;
-”The Era of Good Will Hunting“;
-”Cast and Crew Spotlight”;
-”Academy Awards: A Winning Season,” a featurette exploring the film’s success at the Academy Awards;
-”Life Goes On,” a featurette about life after Good Will for the cast and crew;
-A feature-length commentary with Van Sant, Damon, and Affleck;
-11 deleted scenes with commentary;
-the Academy Awards Best Picture montage;
-”Miss Misery” music video;
-behind-the scenes footage;
-a production featurette;
-and the theatrical trailer.