A writer's duty is to meld works in such an abstract pattern that they can turn a lifeless page into a meaningful journey through the unseen. So it comes, as no surprise that most films about writers stray from their thoughts in fear of their characters becoming something unwanted. Look at films like How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days or Runaway Bride. Both featured central characters bent on their writer's craft, but neither attempted to show the passion behind this trait. Maybe it is because we don't understand writers, so we stray from them with diligence. And just like films of this nature we lack originality. How many people have sat down to write in hopes of being the next Stephen King with a number one best seller? Now tell me how many of you have sat down and claimed that the next big thing will be yourself? I am willing to be that option number one held majority. It is like films these days are trying to measure up and be one step ahead of the game. Maybe that's why when a film like Finding Forrester comes along someone has to sit up and take notice. This film is not only a fictitious look into the history of creative art, but a fascinating exploration of a boy who represents this is and an old man who represents everything that lives on inside. The story is familiar in formula, contrived in purpose and unoriginal in terms of output, yet nothing short of genius in method, wiping out all negative forces in the name of pure graciousness. This is not a happy film it is rather bleak. It does not promise hope or affection, it merely offers it. Could it be that that is why it is such probable cause for fascination? It turns the light out on films like Dead Poet's Society that preach false-morals in a collage of unexpected sympathy and unwanted morality. Integrity is not at stake here, but morality is surely on sale for a price today. At this end of this film I didn't want to stand up and cheer, nor did I feel resentment for actions that these characters took prior to their offering of them. I just sat there, interested, intrigued, maybe a little confused, yet I craved more because stories like this don't have fixed endings and this film knew it. The story is far too simple and yet far too complex for full disclosure on these pages. The story is just a backdrop for things of further assembly within itself that will be surly talked about. What will be stated is that, after a dare from some friends, Jamal, a black youth from the Bronx, comes into contact with a grumpy old Scottish man, who just so happens to be William Forrester. The basis for this initial meeting relies on the fact that Jamal is given a scholarship to a posh, private school due to his remarkably high test scores, and his passion or both writing and basketball. What makes Forrester such an important character is that he was once a writer, maybe one of the true greats, who never wrote a second book? Not because he felt he couldn't but because he feared he could. The fact that his name was in public circulation was not a factor that scarred him, but rather the fact that people thought they knew what that name stood for. There are sub-plots herein involving basketball rivalry, blossoming teen romance, fraudulent misrepresentation, and a belligerent English teacher named professor Crawford, who feels no greater passion than for that of the sound of his own voice, even if what is coming out of it is void of educational promiscuity. Yet this film does not stray, it does not talk about violence or drugs, which would be a cover-up. This is a film that has a story to tell, and an honest means in which to tell it, there is enough material here for at least two films, but director Gus Van Sant knows where to keep his aim focused. The blunt of this film's greatness lies in the relationship between Jamal and Forrester. This relationship fuels the film because it never stoops low enough to be considered a friendship. This isn't like Scent of a Woman where the characters dislike each other later to become friends. These characters feel awkward, like they don't want each other around, but need it. Jamal need Forrester to teach him about himself and to develop his craft into something of perfection, and Forrester needs Jamal to remind him that there is a world outside of his apartment and he is still a living part of it. These are not picture perfect character that you could scrape off of a magazine add, they are normal people who boast flaws, but feed off of each other in order to help them survive. We care about these characters not because they enthral us but because we are curious as to why we would care about them. Because of this the film works as a rapid provision of appointments that never leave the viewer questioning long enough to require an answer. This is not a film that I will draw distinct scenes forward in hopes of description. This film is a chronicle not a collection of image. It flows together, one scene after the other, using the last to accent the next and provide with the means in which to fuel the engine forward. I beg anyone to give me one scene in this film that you believe, in having cut, would profit the story telling potential of this material. And still it is not just the two central characters that these attributes can be placed upon. The Crawford character also drew me. He is a character that films like this use as a means to dispense their frustration upon but F. Murray Abraham plays this character for so much more worth. He plays Crawford as a man who does not want us to hate him, just hopes we can try to understand him. Watch this film, and than watch it again, see if you can give one means in which this character gives you to stipulate this irrelevance as a caring individual who only wishes the best. Anna Paquin also stars in a small but slender role as Claire, a white girl who draws interest in Jamal. Paquin also finds the proper balance that her characters needs in order to fulfill her presence. She is a free spirit in a subdued body who takes pride in gaining her dignity, not earning it. Probably this films biggest surprise is first timer Rob Brown in the position of Jamal. Not only does young Brown find reverence in his scenes next to Sean Connery as Forrester but also he also never places himself in a position where he feels to the left of the star-studded cast. He never makes a joke of his surroundings, but never allows himself to discover more than those same surrounding need provide, finding a natural balance between cunning and insipid. He reminds me of the Mekhi Phifer from Clockers, a good man in a bad situation. Connery on the other hand is a great actor on his own, a seasoned veteran who knows the stakes and is willing to coincide himself to them. Yet it is not the performance that Connery gives that I give amends to. It is how he places that character inside his own little world. A bad film would have played this character for sympathy. Connery plays it for respect. He makes a character that you don't have to be partial to, but can't help to respect due to his extensive motivations. Van Sant also uses an interesting gadget in the scoring of this film. A lot of films play with music to brew emotions, Van Sant plays with silence. Silence is dark and haunting, silence is dull and silence does create memories it subsides with mysteries. This film doesn't want to provoke emotions, it wants you to realize them, or in this case re-realize them. This is not a perfect film; I will be the first to admit that. It uses a tired formula that we have seen many times before and in some cases raises certain points above others of equal opportunity. But it does relish a perfect score because even though it leads us down a path that has been journeyed many times before, never has getting down that path provided its viewer with so much to think about in themselves. It is bold and daring. When we think it will go one way, it goes another, only making us feel sorry for such naive assumptions in judgment. This truly is film making at its peak literary form.
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