Two tickets torn in half, and nothing to do

Hi. I’m Dave. I’m a friend of Alex’s from way back. One might say I’m the Chuckie to his Will. Or … one might not.

In any case, when Alex told me he was writing a Good Will Hunting blog, I was immediately excited. Not only because I, too, think of the movie more than anyone probably should, but because I am a bit obsessed with Elliott Smith, and this would be yet another venue to vent the effects of my insanity.

I wish I could say I was hip to Elliott Smith from the very beginning; that I was a Portland rock scenester who knew him from Heatmiser. Instead, I was like many others: I heard him in Good Will Hunting and thought to myself, this – this is for me. I want this.

I saw Good Will Hunting on TV recently, and, as watching movies on television often goes, it was a disjointed experience. Commercials interrupted important scenes, profanities became fuzzy and ineffective (all the Southie boys say “friggin'”, right?). I hadn’t watched the movie too carefully since picking up Elliott Smith’s XO in 2000 or so, and it was interesting seeing it through the eyes of a Smith fan. The songs fit perfectly in the background, but they also periodically sneak out in front.

More than the theme song “Miss Misery”, “Between The Bars” is the perfect song for Good Will Hunting, with the dark humor of that punned title and the story of someone stuck in an alcohol-aided (or fueled?) rut. No, the boys in Good Will Hunting aren’t alcoholics (yet), but they are addicted to vices that keep them stagnant, a hole Will digs himself out of at the end of the movie, at which point Smith is replaced with “Afternoon Delight”, just as Either/Or, of which “Between The Bars” is the centerpiece, closes mercifully with the hopeful “Say Yes”.

I’m a musician, and there is no avoiding the fact that I rip off Smith at every turn. Not in terms of melody, but in feel and tone, and I try in vain to capture how his songs are each universes unto themselves. His melodies wind around a fixed point, always moving, but never so far you lose your bearings.

The day Elliott Smith died, I was surprised at how upset I was. I didn’t know him, after all. I think it was because the songs, despite a couple of decent posthumous releases, were gone, along with that sense of discovery. Discovery that so many people felt watching Good Will Hunting, and again seeing the poor bastard, eternally uncomfortable with success, playing at the 1997 Oscars.

That’s what I think of when I think of Good Will Hunting.

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Guest Contributor David Brusie is a musician and writer living in Boston. Check him out at

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?

What’s so good about him?

An addendum to previous post, Good Will Hunting II: It’s Hunting Season

Okay, I would be remiss not to praise the GWH2 moment wherein Mr. Ponytail intones the film’s somewhat obtuse before-and-after title.  Really, is anyone in the film really hunting for “good will” — “an attitude of kindness or friendliness; benevolence”?

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 HuntingGood [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 II: It’s Hunting Season

I always forget that Matt & Ben really got their break from Kevin Smith (Good Will Hunting co-executive producer, creator/writer/director of Chasing Amy and, as seen above, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back) .  I haven’t seen Jay & Silent Bob, but have to admit, this scene is masterful.

Were Ben-Affleck-self-mocking a film genre onto its own, he’d be buried in Oscars.