by Craig Fink
So much guilt -- yet so much pleasure
Finding Forrester isn't your typical guilty pleasure. No members of the Baldwin family are in the cast (or Richard Karn, for that matter), and it was not directed by Uwe Boll. Granted, there are some critics who would claim that any film in which Busta Rhymes plays a role is automatically a guilty pleasure at best. I, on the other hand, find Mr. Rhymes' role to be prophetic - he plays a minor character that had a chance to be something, but ended up as a park- ing lot attendant. How's that working out for you, Busta? Mr. Rhymes aside, there is nothing in this movie that would obviously mark it as a guilty pleasure. Gus Van Sant, the director of the acclaimed films Good Will Hunting and Elephant, is at the helm - critics weren't overly harsh, generally describing the movie as "nice." The plot follows Jamal, a street-ball playing, backwards-hat wearing hood from the Bronx, who also happens to be incredibly well- read. He scribbles writing ideas in a journal between class- es and feigns ignorance in his studies to make things easi- er with his peeps. Jamal and his friends compete after school on a street court directly below a lonely window - they name the mysterious white face that watches them "the window." Boys being boys, Jamal's friends dare him to break into the apartment. When the occupant of the apartment, William Forrester (Sean Connery), ambushes Jamal in the apartment, the startled boy leaves his back- pack (and journals) behind. When Jamal gets his journals back, he finds that the man has covered them in corrective red ink. It turns out that Forrester is a reclusive author who penned one of the century's greatest novels 50 years earlier and disappeared into isolation, never publishing another. From there, Forrester tutors Jamal, and Jamal plays more basketball, eventually hooking up with a rich white girl from the private school he switches to when his "test scores" are off the map. Everyone learns something from everyone else, loose ends are tied, and we all go home happy. What makes Finding Forrester a guilty pleasure is this: Why would anyone want to watch a second-rate Good Will Hunting, when you could just watch Good Will Hunting? The plots are identical - boy-genius from the wrong side of the tracks grapples with his demons while pursuing a rich girl from the right side of the tracks and being mentored by a man who has demons of his own. Annoying Busta Rhymes in Finding Forrester is annoying Ben Affleck in Good Will Hunting. And though I prefer Finding Forrester, Good Will Hunting has that "certain something" (perhaps the prestige of being first) that denotes it as a ‘very good film.' However, I love Finding Forrester largely because of Sean Connery. He is funny, charming, alcoholic in that entertaining PG-13 sort of way, and of course, eccentric. Watching Forrester ride his bike through the deserted Bronx streets at midnight, signaling his intentions with his arm for no one but himself, is a moment in film that is pressed permanently on my mind. The image is utterly charming. But perhaps I enjoy Finding Forrester so much because it is about the act of writing. The struggle to string words together into something brand new seems more art- ful to me than the sterile math equations of Good Will Hunting, regardless of the many examples of bad writing that exist within the dialogue of the film itself. Just watch it.