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.
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?
Will Hunting is actually surrounded by this sort of unobtrusive support; what he ultimately needs is “to meet his match” (according to the trailer) — the kind of challenges he receives from Minnie Driver, Robin Williams, and Math. I would argue he’s “It’s Not Your Fault” Hunting. But that is not the same as good will. Will needs tough love, not merriness and good will towards men. (Though I guess he claims to need no one but the dead academics he so relishes…)
The other understanding of the play on words is that Will is just plain Good, as in Good [at Math] Will Hunting. Good [at Burying it Deep Inside] Will Hunting. But that’s stupid, right? But I digress — the film’s title is a compelling discussion to come. Let’s just cut back to the punchline… “Applesauce, bitch.” (And who doesn’t like applesauce?)
Good Will Hunting is more than just the sum of its parts.
For an “indie” film, it is widely recognized, and generally — I think — thought of with fondness. For a film that admittedly flirts with mediocrity, it resonates for those of us who were young adults in the late nineties. References to the film, over a decade after its release, pepper my peer group’s daily interactions, almost unconsciously.
So. Just what is it that makes Good Will Hunting so different, so appealing?
Welcome to BlogWillHunting, wherein a collective of Bostonian and Canterbridgian twenty-somethings embark, today, on a discussion of Matt and Ben’s great dissertation. It is the story of a young man in Boston — a man among friends — knocking back some beers, sitting on a winning lottery ticket, and seeing about a girl.