Every Friday throughout the summer, we’ll be posting a movie that someone on our staff has picked as their favorite Miramax film. While the summer blockbusters invade the theaters, consider watching one of the staff picks over the weekend instead. Today’s pick, Good Will Hunting, is from Alex Stein, director of Strategy and Business Development. Nominated for nine Oscars, it took home two for Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor.
I admire the film Good Will Hunting for many reasons: the brilliant performances by Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Robin Williams, the humor and wit, the evolution of Will’s inner struggle, and, I must say, the scenes (both exquisitely charming and gritty) of my native Boston. But there is another reason I appreciate the film and have watched it repeatedly—the enthusiastic showcase of higher mathematics.
Early in the film, MIT Professor Lambeau, after realizing the near impossible proof he had written on the blackboard had been solved, asks the mystery mathematician to come forward. The anticipation rivals that of the moments awaiting the final results of a reality show competition.
But the story not only glamorizes math, but also showcases the keen power of knowledge in general. We are reminded that knowledge can elevate the trajectory of one’s life, parry attempts of others to embarrass, and even enable some fun along the way.
The film also illustrates that the clichéd inherent beauty of mathematics extends to a cinematic one as well. I have long deeply appreciated this elegance and, to this day, sometimes doodle in differential equations. Once in a while a colleague might raise an eyebrow or even heckle. Fortunately, however, the film inspires a pithy riposte: “How do you like ‘dem integrals?”
- Will turns out to be the therapy patient no one ever wanted. In this scene: Will (Matt Damon), Henry (George Plimpton), Professor Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård)
- Will does advanced mathematics in secret and spars with Chuckie at a local batting cage. In this scene: Will (Matt Damon), Chuckie (Ben Affleck)
- Will's begrudging behavior toward therapy leaves Professor Lambeau with only one solution. In this scene: Will (Matt Damon), Professor Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård), Sean (Robin Williams)
- Will turns the tables on a condescending Harvard student who tries to make a fool of Chuckie. In this scene: Chuckie (Ben Affleck), Skylar (Minnie Driver), Will (Matt Damon), Clark (Scott William Winters), Morgan (Casey Affleck)
- Chuckie gives the bigwigs a run for their money on Will's behalf. In this scene: Chuckie (Ben Affleck)
- Sean, unlike the other therapists, refuses to tolerate Will's blatant disrespect. In this scene: Will (Matt Damon), Sean (Robin Williams), Professor Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård)