Republicans on The Town

So amid all the recent debt ceiling drama, Republicans reportedly used a scene from The Town to persuade fellow party members to back Speaker Boehner’s plan.

Director Ben Affleck’s reaction? He spoke to the Huffington Post and explained “I don’t know if this is a compliment or the ultimate repudiation — but if they’re going to be watching movies, I think [layoff drama] The Company Men is more appropriate.”

Vulture also felt that Ben’s other films might have some more appropriate scenes, offering Seven Other Ben Affleck Scenes That Republicans Can Watch for Inspiration.

Coming in at number 4 of 7, The “Retainer” Scene From Good Will Hunting.

Does it seem odd that President Obama has given the Republicans nearly everything they could ask for and yet they still threaten to drive the country into financial ruin? Maybe they’ve just learned from this classic scene in Good Will Hunting, where Affleck’s masquerading Southie is offered a generous salary with perks, but still demands a “retaaaaainer” and threatens to storm out of negotiations. Let me tell you something: The president is suspect.

Come with me; we’ll take the orange line.

Bunker Hill Community College

"You've never been outta Bahston"

I passed by Bunker Hill Community College on a rare use of the orange line the other day, and I was reminded of my biggest pet peeve in Good Will Hunting, which has got to be when Will comes in for his second therapy session, and Sean says simply, “Come with me.” In the next scene they are on a bench in Boston’s Public Garden, watching the swans go by and talking about the role experience has upon one’s intellectual maturity.

My experience tells me that you can’t just easily wander over to the Public Garden from Bunker Hill. It’s a two mile walk, which for America’s Walking City isn’t unreasonable, but it seems like Will and Sean’s conversation doesn’t begin until they get to that park bench. So I can’t watch that scene without imagining them awkwardly taking one of two trains (the orange line to Chinatown, or the green line to Arlington Station), or driving (but of course that would be crazy, because where would they park?)

So what makes the most sense to me is they took a cab. And I like to think of that as a deleted scene, wherein the cab driver is the cab driver character who’s in the Olympia Sports commercials that are always on during Red Sox games.

Homeomorphically Irreducible Trees of Degree Ten have nothing to do with Function Analysis

Good Will Hunting scene

I once watched Good Will Hunting with a math student, and she scoffed at the so-called impossibility of the problems on the hallway blackboard.

Her skepticism is validated by Professor Robin Wilson of Gresham College:

That’s right, homeomorphically irreducible trees of degree ten have nothing to do with function analysis.  And this particular problem isn’t that hard.

However, when the film was released, some were simply impressed that they actually used real math.

On NPR’s Weekend Edition back on April 4, 1998, host Scott Simon spoke with mathematician Keith Devlin about the plausibility of the math in the film.  Devlin’s opinion is that “they got the math right,” and describes the blackboard problem:

What they did that was very smart was… they had to make sure that it was a problem that someone like Will Hunting, who was innately a genius but had no mathematical training, someone like him had to have been able to solve the problem… and graph theory is one of the few areas of mathematics where that can happen. Someone could literally come out of the streets — or come along the corridor at night with a mop and a bucket, which is what the Will Hunting character does — and if they’ve got the ability, they don’t need the training, and they can just solve it. They have just got to be smart.

The Weekend Edition clip is definitely worth a listen in its entirety; they go on to discuss the real life story of self-taught mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, part of the inspiration for the Will Hunting character, as well as what the filmmakers get not-so-right.

Good Will Hunting scene
"It looks right," says Tom.

Fame, fortune, and their name printed in the auspicious MIT Tech!

The problem Professor Lambeau puts on the hallway chalkboard sets off such excitement as to the identity of the mystery mathematician that his next class is overfilled with students eager to learn who the “silent rogue” could be. When I first saw the film, I thought that the joke — “Is it just my imagination or has my class grown considerably?” — was that everyone enrolled in the massive lecture course actually showed up, which never happens in large lectures. Instead, I think the implication is simply that nearly everyone who heard about the Hard Math Problem being solved was eagerly attending in awe; in short, this is a really big deal.

So big a deal in fact, that people are running as fast as they can to get to the lecture hall.

Someone solved the theorem on the hallway chalkboard!!
Someone solved the theorem on the hallway chalkboard!!

Only in repeated viewings did I realize, this quick scene is not of running students late for class, but instead, it depicts the electric excitement on campus that disrupts the normal pedestrian flow, pulling academics into a sprint toward the lecture hall, books and briefcases in hand, to behold who solved the theorem.

Addendum: In this curious eagerness they find companionship.  Could this be the result of “goodwill hunting”?  They look for math but find companionship, but maybe it was companionship they were looking for all along?  Because nerds don’t have friends?