Friday, August 15, 2014

MUST WATCH FRIDAY: Good Will Hunting

Harlequin author Heidi Rice revisits her favourite Robin Williams film, to celebrate the career of the much-loved actor/comedian who died far too soon earlier this week.

When the news broke on Tuesday morning that actor/comedian Robin Williams had been found dead at his home, I'm sure just about all of us could recall a role he played that we loved. Twitter and Facebook were soon awash with favourite clips or quotes from Dead Poets' Society or Mrs Doubtfire, people were Instagraming photos of Aladdin hugging the Genie and generally there was an outpouring of public sadness at the passing of such a well-liked and talented individual. Because, frankly folks he was one of those entertainers that the public couldn't help but love. Of course the shock and circumstances of his death probably added to the huge response, but I'd like to believe that it was mostly down to his formidible talent.

That's not to say he didn't make some stinkers, too, of course he did (hasn't every performer?), but I still wanted to do a little PHS tribute this Friday to my favourite movie of his. Weirdly it isn't one of his comedies. I did enjoy those, but for me, Good Will Hunting is one of those films that just keeps on giving and it's the scenes which Matt Damon's Will shares with Williams that are the bedrock of this drama.

The script written by Damon and his pal Ben Affleck launched the two of them in Hollywood and tells the story of a surly, blue-collar kid who works as a janitor but is actually a maths genius. His genius comes to light when he is doing the night shifts at MIT and starts solving the problems professor Stellan Skarsgard leaves on the board overnight just for the hell of it. Skarsgard wants to use the boy's genius, but quickly realises that Damon has some severe problems with authority. Enter Robin Williams as the rumpled, mild-mannered psychiatrist Sean Maguire, who Skarsgard enlists to give Damon some much needed therapy to make him more manageable. But of course Maguire isn't interested in using Will, he's actually a principled, thoughtful therapist who want to help Will for Will and as such, soon realises that Will's problems in relationships, his surly, sulky attitude stems from something terribly traumatic in his childhood. And as their sessions continue, Maguire begins to wonder if  maybe, just maybe, he can help Will overcome these traumas. Or at least confront them, so they won't continue to scar his future as they have scarred his past.

This is not a role anyone would have expected to see Williams in - given his talent for manic stand-up comedy. Sean Maquire is the polar opposite of Williams' on-screen persona. But beneath Maguire's apparently mild-mannered surface is a man who has some demons of his own that he has had to overcome - and that's where Williams' sharp snarky persona gives the character a wonderful edge making it entirely believable that Will might finally respond to him.... So as Maguire forms a real and genuinely strong and supportive friendship with Will - and uncovers and helps him to confront the hideous abuse he has suffered as a child -  we begin to fall in love with them both and with the movie.

Williams won an Oscar for his work here (in one of those rare occassions when they actually gave the Oscar to the right person!) Here's just one clip of him in the movie, that brings a tear to my eye every time I see it. Because Will is not a likeable person, he's difficult, tough, troubled and taciturn. But Maguire sees past that to the terrified child that is cowering beneath.

So now, tell me what  your favourite Robin Williams role is?

Heidi is currently working on an exciting new project that she will hopefully be able to brag about soon. Until then she has a new Cosmo Red Hot Read coming on in October called 10 Rules to Sex-Up a Blind Date. No prizes for guessing what that one's about! Chat to her on Twitter (@HeidiRomRice), Facebook and on her blog.


  1. Most definitely my fave is Dead Poets Society - not only my favourite Robin Williams film but one of my top 5 films of all time. I don't recall ever feeling so moved and thoughtful not just in the cinema but for days after.

  2. Have terrible confession to make... I found Dead Poets a bit cheesy. But know so many people who love it! May have to give it another go...