Because of scoring exceptionally high on a statewide standardized exam and being an exceptionally good basketball player Jamal Wallace is sent to a prestigious prep school in Manhattan. He soon befriends the reclusive writer, William Forrester. Written by
the chan man
Derivative but enjoyable that is made much better by the two strong performances
Jamal Wallace is a black highschool student living in the Bronx, New York. He has a talent for basketball, which is popular with his friends and a talent for writing that he tends not to talk up. His test scores bring him to the attention of an exclusive private school with offers of a scholarship, starting immediately. Meanwhile he gives in to his friend's challenges and breaks into the flat of a man known as "the window" because he never leaves his flat but just stares out at the world passing outside. When he is confronted by the man, Wallace flees but forgets his bag, but it is given back later, with all his note book scribbled on and critiqued. He goes back to the flat and tries to get the man to help him further with his writing.
Has it been so many years since Good Will Hunting that Van Sant felt the need to remake it with elements changed? And if so did he feel so insecure about doing it that he delivered with such little originality and blandness so that the audience knows just what they are getting and feels comfortable (if unimpressed)? I guess the answers to both those questions is yes because Finding Forrester is very much a version of Good Will Hunting with the basics kept the same and other bits changed around. Of course this does not mean that it is a bad film because I actually quite enjoyed it; although I knew just where it was going and what it was doing from start to finish. In this way it is a bit annoying that director and writer should be so uninterested in doing anything other than trudging out such obvious material.
The story, although familiar is well enough told though to make it worth seeing. What made it much better for me though were the two genuinely engaging performances in the lead. Given fairly obvious characters to work with, I felt that both Brown and Connery took it, worked it and made it more than the sum of the words in the script. Brown is impressive by how much seems to be going on behind his eyes and I was more impressed when I learnt that this was his acting debut. Connery is equally as good in a role that he could have slummed off his famous voice and natural presence; but instead he works with a vulnerability that is convincing and makes his character and the story so much more interesting. Neither of them can make this a wonderful film but they both do a lot of work to make it an enjoyable and engaging one. Support from Abraham is by-the-numbers but effective (although his final scene is unconvincing); I didn't understand why Paquin bothered (or why they bothered to have her character in the story) while Rhymes is just what you expect and only looks weak at the end when he is asked to emote.
Overall this is a solid and enjoyable film despite the fact that it seems determined to do just what you expect it to do. That said the story is still interesting but what really does the business are the two great performances from Brown and Connery both as individuals but also together; they take the obvious material and make it somehow much more convincing and engaging. Not a great film by any stretch of the imaginative and too derivative to really stick in the mind but does enough to entertain.
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