Finding Forrester


Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Written by:Mike Rich
Starring: Sean Connery, F. Murray Abraham, Anna Paquin, Busta Rhymes, Rob Brown
Released: March 29, 2001
Grade: B-

Good Will Hunting was about an undiscovered mathematical genius who was helped by a man with his own demons and together, they got each other’s lives back on track.  Finding Forrester is about an undiscovered yet brilliant writer who is helped by a man with his own demons and together, they get each other’s lives back on track.  That's not the only similarity.  Both are directed by Gus Van Sant who is usually known for tacking bolder projects such as My Own Private Idaho, Drugstore Cowboy and To Die For.  Once you see this film's final 10 minutes, you'll know there's one more interesting connection.

Finding Forrester revolves around 16-year-old Jamal Wallace (Brown), an extremely talented writer who keeps this ability hidden from most.  He loves hanging out with his friends in Manhattan and playing basketball but after Jamal gets outstanding results in an aptitude test, both his principal and mother understand just how gifted he is.  Jamal is offered a place at a prestigious school and doesn't take much convincing once he sees the campus and what it has to offer him. 

Near where Jamal plays basketball is an old apartment block with a story.  On the top floor is a man who constantly looks out from behind his closed window.  No one has ever seen him in person.  Rumours have been whispered over time but the mysterious man remains an enigma in the neighbourhood.

On a dare, Jamal ascends the building and sneaks into the apartment but when discovered, flees and inadvertently leaves his backpack behind.  The next day, the backpack is thrown down from above and inside are Jamal's writing books, comprehensively edited by a very knowledgeable writer.  Intrigued, Jamal wants to know more about this man and whether or not he can help him further his own writing.  I won't spoil any more details because the character is revealed ever so slowly in the film but obviously, the role is played by Sean Connery. 

This story was told much better physically and emotionally in Good Will Hunting.  Newcomer Rob Brown is super in the leading role and Sean Connery is good also.  The same cannot be said for other cast members including Anna Paquin, whose purpose is never explained, and F. Murray Abraham, who is completely over-the-top as Jamal's English lecturer.

Finding Forrester's feel-good finale is both predictable and boring.  The film is interesting for a while but when you take a limited story and try to drag it out over two hours, you'll lose your audience.  After just half an hour, I knew exactly how the film would end and became frustrated in waiting for the foregone conclusion.  The film overstayed its welcome.  Gus Van Sant's direction is standard but I did enjoy his limited use of film score.

There are some cinemagoers who enjoy any film where an underdog triumphs over adversity but I'm tougher as a critic.  I love feel-good movies provided they make me feel good all through the movie and not just in the end and I'll cite Billy Elliot as a perfect example.   Sure I loved Jamal sticking it up those who knocked him down but it wasn't worth $13 and a Friday night.