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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. The friendship leads William to overcome his reclusiveness and for Jamal to overcome the racial prejudices and pursue his true dream - writing. Written by
the chan man
Director Gus Van Sant also directed `Good Will Hunting' and this film has essentially the same plot. An underprivileged youth is discovered by a reclusive genius and is shepherded to his full potential. What GWH was to math, this film is to literature. They are such close cousins that Van Sant felt compelled to bring in Matt Damon for a cameo.
Regardless of the familiar plot, `Finding Forrester' succeeds because of an excellent screenplay and outstanding acting performances by Sean Connery, Rob Brown and F. Murray Abraham. This kind of story can't help grabbing the audience at a human level. Genius, suppressed by societal class, struggles to emerge and it beats the odds. The story is transcendent for both the main characters. Forrester (Sean Connery) helps Jamal (Rob Wallace) transcend his societal constraints to realize his potential as a writer, and Jamal helps Forrester to transcend the constraints of his emotional traumas to free him as a human being. It is a triumphant story, very uplifting.
Van Sant does a good job of presenting the human element and developing the characters while keeping the photography effective but in the background. The photography is very straightforward, allowing the characters to tell the story without the intrusive use of stylish shots that are all to prevalent lately. Van Sant gives Forrester's apartment a dark and dreary look from a color and lighting perspective, which is particularly effective.
Sean Connery is in top form and continues to make the case for being one of our best and most treasured actors. He gives a virtuoso performance in this film with a complex and ornery character. It is a powerful and moving portrayal. Rob Brown is phenomenal in his first feature film. He was found in a talent search and made an impressive debut with an extremely mature performance. With the right scripts, he has a good chance of having a bright future. F. Murray Abraham is fantastic as the haughty English teacher, who gets his just deserts.
This is a highly intelligent film with a strong story, steady direction and marvelous acting. I rated it a 9/10. Despite an all too familiar storyline, it differentiates itself by its wide-ranging excellence. For those who enjoy good dramatic performances and intriguing character studies, this film is not to be missed.
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