When I first heard about Gerry, the 2002 film written by Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, and Gus Van Sant and starring two of our darling Bostonian golden boys—well, I was excited. Could this be a Good Will Hunting renaissance of some sort? Is this the film we’ve all been waiting for, after the promising start that was Good Will Hunting? After all, it was directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Matt Damon and, well… an Affleck! Not Ben, but pretty close. Maybe it would be almost like a sequel? Or would that be too much to ask?
And, I suppose, one could regard it as something like a sequel. It’s as if Morgan accompanied Will on his cross-country road trip and we find them somewhere in the southwest. And they’ve lost their accents. And Will got a haircut. And they don’t talk much. And–OK, in spite of the superficial similarities, I guess there’s not actually much of a connection between the two movies, despite how badly I was hoping to find one.
The beginning of the film, however, does almost seem like an oblique, teasing reference to the final scene in Good Will Hunting where we watch Will’s car disappear down the highway while Afternoon Delight plays and the credits roll. Gerry opens in much the same way—a car traveling down a road, through a dry desert-scape.
It’s like we’ve picked up right where we left off! It’s Good Will Hunting, but without the Afternoon Delight!
Alas, nearly immediately it became obvious that these were not Will and Morgan that we were dealing with. Gerry aspires to be a serious, high-art film: lots of long, unbroken takes; awkwardly long close-ups; long stretches where the only soundtrack is the sound of Damon and Affleck’s feet crunching against the gravelly desert ground for whole minutes at a time; grandiose, sweeping shots of the (admittedly stunning) scenery; and a deliberate vagueness as to who exactly our characters are and what they are doing.
It starts out with a long drive, as mentioned, and then our two heroes—both named Gerry—set out on a wilderness trail. They are headed for “the thing,” but after about 45 seconds they decide to “fuck the thing” and turn back. Unfortunately, within moments they manage to become spectacularly lost amidst an ever-changing backdrop of mountains, ravines, and desert scrub. No spoilers here, but you can probably imagine how this will end.
As for the script, I imagine it’s probably about 3 pages long—there isn’t much dialogue, and I got the impression that most of it was improvised.
Certainly, this is no Good Will Hunting, but it isn’t bad. I guess you could say my taste in film veers more towards the popular than the high-art, but in the end I still appreciated this film and its intentions. It’s earnest and thoughtful and interesting, and visually very beautiful.
And I bet Will Hunting would have loved it.