RELEASED: 2000, Cert. 12
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 136 mins
DIRECTOR: Gus Van Sant
PRODUCERS: Sean Connery, Laurence Mark & Rhonda Tollefson
SCREENPLAY: Mike Rich
MUSIC: Harris Savides
Rob Brown as Jamal
Sean Connery as William Forrester
F Murray Abraham as Robert Crawford
Anna Paquin as Claire
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Jamal is a poor kid from The Bronx who has a penchant for playing basketball. After he achieves brilliant grades in some academic school tests, yet his day to day work is merely average, Jamal is viewed as being exceptionally intelligent, and is offered a free place at a very classy private school.
Simultaneously, Jamal enters into a growing friendship with William Forrester, a once successful but now reclusive writer.
Forrester encourages Jamal, mentoring his writing skills, but hitched to it is a promise that Jamal must make of never discussing his meetings with Forrester with anybody and never to take any of his (Jamal's) writing outside of Forrester's apartment.
At his new private school, Jamal is befriended by Claire who shows him the ropes, and he begins to cross swords with his arrogant English teacher, Robert Crawford.
The very first thing which grabbed me about Finding Forrester was the music chosen to open the film, it being so good that it absorbed me to the point where I almost forgot to start focusing my concentration on the storyline.
The story begins with Jamal's life in New York's tough Bronx area, and his enjoyment of basketball. It took me a little while to hook into and properly understand the ghetto vernacular, but I gradually got used to it.
I became fascinated with the curtain twitching from a crumbling old apartment overlooking the pitch where Jamal and his friends played basketball, yet once it was revealed as the home of reclusive writer William Forrester (beautifully played by Sean Connery), I began to not lose interest exactly, but perhaps was slightly disappointed that Jamal rather too easily managed to make friends with this feisty old man, after being on the receiving end of a little initial frostiness. I would have liked to see the difficulties Jamal had in securing William Forrester's friendship and making him trust the boy, perhaps contain more biting tension than it does.
However, the bond which eventually forms between Forrester and Jamal is an interesting and quite heartwarming one, thankfully devoid of sentiment and mawkishness.
I found the character of Robert Crawford, Jamal's embittered and superciliously arrogant English teacher to be quite loathsome, yet F Murray Abraham played the role exceedingly well....perfecting an odious character whose head I wanted to rip off.....definitely the hallmark of a good actor!
Rob Brown as Jamal and Sean Connery as William Forrester strike a firm acting bond with one another, both working exceedingly well together. I didn't read the credits before watching the film, and I only worked out that Forrester was played by Sean Connery from his infamous way of pronouncing the letter S.
Although I largely enjoyed Finding Forrester and my attention didn't sway, I felt it lacked a certain punch which would have transfixed me rather than simply held me. Also, there are stretches where there is little of relevance happening, and I think the film could easily have been squeezed into 90 or so minutes. In addition to that, I found the ending rather predictable and a little contrived, even though heartwarming in a way.
As far as the dialogue is concerned, it is a case of being sometimes up and sometimes not so up....it doesn't exactly falter or flounder on the down parts....merely that it perhaps at times could have possessed a little more oomph. However, William Forrester in musing mode does utter a couple of statements which gave me some food for thought, making me reflect upon one or two areas of my own life and sense of being.
Now, onto the music, that for me was Finding Forrester's crowning glory as a film. Throughout, the music is a combination of a cool kind of very soft, easy to listen to jazz (I'm given to understand that some of it was adaptations of Miles Davis's work) and a sort of borderline new-age, equally jazz-flavoured intriguing set of sounds. Some of the music reminded me of Van Morrison's Common One album, which pleased me greatly....although I don't think for one minute that any similarity was intended or that Morrison in any way influenced the score composer for this film. There to my delight are also a couple of small stretches where the stunning theme music of the 1973 cult classic film Badlands was used.
I did largely enjoy Finding Forrester and it held both my interest and attention, but at the end of the day, it really was the astoundingly brilliant music which moved me the most, such propelling me to hunt it down as a stand-alone album...as it's something I'd love to own and hear again and again. It is very difficult for me to explain the place that this music touched inside of me, but it was both a deep and an exalting experience.
In summary, Finding Forrester is a very good and worthwhile film which I feel would hold universal appeal, but it is a little on the slow side and would benefit from omitting several of what to me are unnecessary scenes, thereby shortening the proceedings to a more acceptable and ultimately more watchable length. The storyline isn't entirely original, as it does follow the path of a young person being mentored by a reclusive eccentric, but that doesn't really matter here, because the film for the most part is nonetheless still entertaining and very well-acted.
Would I recommend Finding Forrester? Overall I would, but it does fall just a tiny bit short of what I'd been led to expect.
At the time of writing, Finding Forrester can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £3.04 to £19.99
Used: from £2.19 to £8.00
Collectible: only one copy currently available @ £8.22 (appears to be used)
Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Doing english is probably one of the hardest subjects there can be to do. Okay, so I know many people will turn about and bitch about it and say "well, you try doing physics or maths or blah blah blah..." but they'd be wrong. English students have a damn high rate of alcoholic/suicides when compared to other courses. Some wierd fact I found a few years ago on the internet. Quite a sobering thought, isnt it? But still, looking at the odds of me coming out t-total and alive... I still decided to have a crack at one of the most competetive, bitchiest and hardest degrees... English. That's why I found this film. William Forrester... a tale of a man who once wrote, but gave his talent up to hide away and live off the proceeds of the only book he ever wrote, a book that became a landmark in history of the written word. On the other side of the coin was a young black male, who had talent, sheer talent in bucketloads but was swamped under by peer pressure and the fact that people about him, whilst encouraging him, others would try to bring him down, Heartfelt and touching, it's a story which I related to, especially as Im doing an english degree, as I know what it's like and how damn hard it is, to have talent, and not be able to share it, to not make people weep with how you want the language to wind it's way about your soul, how the fluidity of your prose doesn't touch others but to you it's magnificent. Lets face it, without english we'd all be speaking german/latin and where we would be? The film, is based about this young male
Unfortunately, a lot of people have dismissed this film purely because the influences were markedly detectable that they couldn?t see beyond what lied in this. A little unfortunate but it?s a good, small film. Our protagonist is Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown) who lives in the inner city with his mother, doing what normal kids of such surroundings do....play basketball with his friends (it is, if you?re a black kid in America....little wonder, it had a small degree of difficulty translating and having the audience on it?s side). In a nearby building, they spy somebody peering at them through a pair of binoculars, who nonchalantly stares right back. One day, Jamal?s friends dare him to break into the guy?s apartment. Almost managing to do so, Jamal is scared off, leaving his backpack behind and the man ends up rooting around, finding some papers and is intrigued enough to mark Jamal?s work! Who is this strange man? And why?s he so nosy? He is William Forrester, a writer who?s famously reclusive. But why does he want to hide his fame? The first book he published was ?Avalon Landing? which ended up winning the Pulitzer Prize. Forrester stopped after he felt he was exploiting his brother who was a war veteran. But why the interest in Jamal from Forrester? He wants to nurture Jamal?s talent and bring it out of him. Jamal is soon accepted into an exclusive Manhatten preparatory school....not so much for his writing skills BUT his basketball skills. Feeling out of place with the other students, he finds a friendly face in Claire (Anna Paquin). ?A black boy and a white girl!? Surely there?s going to be problems!?. Well kind of. Claire?s father (Michael Norui) disapproves and Jamal finds himself an enemy in teacher and failed writer Robert Crawford (F. Murray Abraham) who just happens to have a grudge against Jamal?s mentor Forrester. The scenes where Connery and Brown act out their Sean Maguir
e and Will Hunting scenes where they discuss the aspects of writing are wonderful BUT scenes elsewhere are tediously rudimentary and simply don?t work. A big question though is Forrestor?s redemption and his willingness to be accepted again of which three sequences occur which provide all the emotional resonance of a damp squib. The music plays over the dialogue too loud, the music is remiscient of another film ('True Romance' of all things....) and the first is rather misplaced. Rob Brown is ho-hum and surprisingly as someone who?s willing to learn, he comes across as bored in some scenes which shift uneasily with the tone of the film but he manages to hold a presence against Connery. Connery excels, and you feel you want him to succeed, you want him to help Jamal. He's easily the best thing in this overlong film (2 hours and 16 minutes is going to test a lot of viewers). F. Murray Abraham is unfortunately given a one-note role which gives him the opportunity to seethe with rage and be jealous (c?mon, he played Salieri over 15 years ago....). The ending is rather forced and builds up to a huge anticlimax and it doesn?t help matters that Matt Damon shows up as Forrester's lawyer (a sharp nudge in the ribs or a sly wink as a homage? Eeeek....). One worrying aspect is the subtext which involves plagiarism BUT as much as it wants to encourage us to learn the writer?s craft, I suspect this is an unfortunate moral that the writers of this film should have learned in the first place. It's a good film BUT not by any means wonderful.
It amazed me that this film was largely ignored by the UK Cinema going public when it was released earlier this year. It was highly acclaimed by US Audiences and starred ever popular Sean Connery. So well thought of was it, that it received several Oscar nominations, yet cinemas in this area screened it for one week – and pooooof, it was gone. In fact it should have been renamed – ‘Couldn’t Find Forrester’. The film starred – like I said – old 007 himself, Sir Sean Connery as reclusive author William Forrester. Now growing old alone in the same New York apartment he grew up in, he takes a black teenage ‘wannabe’ budding writer, Jamal Wallace (played by Rob Brown), under his wing. The two meet in an odd way. Jamal is a more than competent scholar, but only does just enough to get his grades, so as not to alienate him from his friends. He’s playing basketball outside the apartment block where Forrester lives. He leaves his backpack with his schoolwork behind, but next day finds it – and his work has been corrected and comments have been left. It was Forrester who had been watching him from his window. Forrester is famous for writing just the one book – a novel which won him the Pulitzer Prize - and is looked up to by the youngster. The old man’s aim is to teach his young protégé the art of writing, but it eventually goes much further and deeper as he also imparts his wisdom about friendship, family and life in general. In return Jamal sets out to try to encourage Forrester to step back into society and break through his fear of venturing out of his apartment. Connery has played this type of character before – the experienced, overseeing and authorititve ‘father figure’. And, of course, he plays it very well. But look out for the talented young man who plays opposite him. Brown makes his ‘major league’ film debut
in this one and is outstanding. His portrayal of a kid from the Bronx with ideas above his schoolmates, who just want to play basketball and ‘chill’, is superb. Many comparisons have been made to a young Denzel Washington – well maybe, but he’s certainly an actor to look out for in the future. Look out too for Anna Paquin as Jamal’s ‘love interest’. She was last seen as ‘Rogue‘ in the X-Men, but this is quite a different casting for her as the down-to-earth, straight talking daughter of the school director. • SUMMARY This is a well made (Directed by Gus Van Zant), if at times rather slow moving, study of how a relationship can flourish between two ‘opposites’. The road has been travelled before in other books and films, of course, but the two main protagonists – Connery and Brown – bring the film into sharp focus and provide plenty of ‘sparks’. This film has been compared with ‘Good Will Hunting’ another of Van Zant’s film. Whether it is as good is debateable, but it is a classy piece of work with a good pedigree. Right, so the storyline does not exactly sound like it’s a ‘thrill-a-minute’ action movie. Well it’s not. It’s not a teen comedy either, but if you are looking for a thoughtful, moving and serious drama to settle down in front of, then definately put this on your watch list when the video/DVD is released.
Finding Forrester tells the story of a young black teenager named Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown), who has always just done enough to get the grades to get through high school, he made sure is always averages a C grade. He does however study at home and is an extremely gifted writer but he doesn’t let this show as he is also a great basketballer and thinks if he shows he is intelligent it may harm his street reputation. Jamal lives in the Bronx and they play basketball on a court next block of flats, there is one flat in this block that is owned by The Window, a person no one has ever seen but they see someone watching them through the curtains. In fact the story of The Window is like an urban legend around the schoolyard and in the end Jamal’s friends dare him to break into The Window’s flat and take something to prove that he did. So when Jamal does this he is startled by someone and runs out quickly, leaving his backpack behind which contains all his writing. The next day while playing basketball he notices that his backpack his hanging on the inside of the window and while crossing the road it is dropped down to his feet. When Jamal arrive home he checks to see if everything is still there and finds that The Window has read all his writing and has left comments on how to improve them and what he’s doing wrong. So Jamal goes back to The Window for help and eventually finds out that The Window is in fact award wining writer William Forrester, who only wrote one book, that won the Pulitzer Prize, before disappearing and never releasing another book. Jamal is now being pressured to join a private school, not for his academic skills, but for his basketball style. Forester then becomes Jamal’s mentor and tutor to help him improve his writing skills, with the one stipulation - that Jamal never mentions anything about Forrester to his friends. Finding Forrester's writer, Mike Rich, fortunately takes the high road with his st
ory. It never breaks down into a stereotypical "white guy saves youngster from crime-filled ghetto" story; instead focusing on the relationships. Yes, there are a few race and class issues debated, but the script never beats you over the head trying to prove its point, which is refreshing. Connery and newcomer Rob Brown are terrific as expected, and other outstanding performances include Busta Rhymes(!!!!!) as Jamal's underachieving brother Terrel. Anna Paquin as Claire, Jamal's first friend at his new school, and F. Murray Abraham as Crawford, a hard-nosed writing teacher. The film is driven by the chemistry between Brown and Connery and they work wonderfully together. Writing is not exactly the most cinematic or exciting thing in the world, but the two carry it through, and make their scenes engaging and often entertaining. Newcomer Brown proves to be a real find, his performance here at least as much of a breakout as Matt Damon's was in Good Will Hunting. Brown brings an extremely natural feel to the film; I have no idea what his background actually is, but he certainly made me believe he had grown up in an environment not unlike Jamal's. The film basically is Good Will Hunting 2, with director Gus Van Sant returning and the similar theme of exciting youngster being guided by the older role model. Again, the central relationship between Jamal and Forrester is excellently written, but supporting characters around the two seem rather thinly written and underused. The film as a whole also doesn't seem to quite be able to support its over 2 hour running time, and as a result, there are periods of the film that begin to feel slow, mostly surrounding Jamal’s troubles at school. The movie delivers a lot of pleasures as ridiculous as it is, there’s a definite thrill when Jamal keeps cutting off Crawford by completing the snippets of literature Crawford is trying to use to put him down, that reminded me a lot of a similar
scene in Damien: Omen 2 when the teacher is asking him all the dates for historical events and he is answering them straight away. Anna Paquin has a lot of screen time early (that will please Triplecthegame) on but fades out towards the end, the English Teacher played by F. Murray Abraham is the stereotypical school teacher bad guy and Busta Rhymes is underused, which is a statement I never thought I’d hear myself saying. It's not all perfect, one major storyline, in which Jamal is accused of plagiarism by a jealous teacher (F Murray Abraham) who doesn't believe a basketball player from the Bronx could possess such talent, is a little too familiar. As there is not a section for this film’s DVD yet I will mention the features here until it is added and them move it over. Presented in its original 2.35 aspect ration the transfer is very sharp with no signs of digital artifacting. The only fault probably lies in the style of Van Sant and Director of Photography, Harris Savides. Many of the interior sets have been shot with limited lighting (as Forrester’s flat is always in the dark with the curtains closed), so the print is darker than most. The black levels are inconsistent, and colours are not always well saturated, and there seems to be a constant haze in the apartment of Forrester. Aside from this minor bug the transfer is good. The first extra on the disk is the HBO making of Finding Forrester, which is the normal 15 minute making of feature that mixes footage form the film with short cast interviews that is really just an extended trailer for the film. We also have the documentary Found: Rob Brown, which focuses on the discovery of the films star and newcomer Rob Brown. There is more behind-the-scenes footage and, in addition, it seems that this material was culled from footage removed from the original feature. Director Gus Van Sant and other members of the crew talk about the casting process and finding a n
ewcomer for such a major role. Brown himself also talks in-depth about his feelings taking on the role and making the film. Between the two features, all of the principle actors and some of the production crew show up to promote the film, though again little of substance is really learned. The final extras on this disc include some Filmographies, theatrical trailers (Finding Forrester, Fly Away Home, First Knight and To Die For) and a couple of Deleted Choir Sequences, which features the Dewitt-Clinton High School Chorus performing Lacrymosa and Lean on Me. Finding Forrester is a lot more than a simple ode to the craft of writing. The film is so well done, and so well acted that its difficult not to love the film. The film is charming, smart, and extremely witty. Not in a manipulative way either. Just GOOD. Sure there are stereotypes to tread around: A bitter teacher out to get him, the tug of war between athletics and scholarship, the family that NEEDS him to succeed, and a potential volatile relationship with A white girl! The result is a way above average film that should be seen.
Finding Forrester is the story of gifted 16 year old basketball player Jamal Warner (Rob Brown) and his relationship with Pulitzer Prize winning recluse William Forrester (Sean Connery). It is directed by Oscar nominated Gus Van Sant, has a jazz soundtrack featuring Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman & Bill Frisell and features Busta Rhymes as Jamals older brother. Jamal is a regular kid who lives with his mother in Bronx and gets C grades in school. The film begins with Jamals recent test results revealing that he is exceptionally gifted and one of the top private schools in the New York to offering him a full academic scholarship and ant the chance to play basketball with their championship winning team. While all this is going on Jamal meets and befriends reclusive writer William Forrester who has virtually locked himself in his apartment for the past 40 years after having written a Pulitzer prize winning novel which is now proclaimed one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. It's a nice film that plods on at a constant speed, but no real excitement ever happens, there is the constant feeling that the story is building up to some big dramatic climax but it never quite gets there as the big dramatic scene goes off with more of a whimper than a bang. I expected a big emotional climax on the scale of Dead Poets Society but it just didn't happen. There were sub plots involving Jamal and a rich Girl called Claire (the girl who played rogue in X-men) who befriends him at school, and Jamals drifting away from his old set of friends from his old school but despite the setting up of situations which if followed through could have had added at bit more drama to the plot (even they would have been some what cliched). Rob Brown is a fantastic actor and gave a great performance. There were a few dodgy camera shots but the script was good with good dialog. But over all the film fails to deliver any dramatic punch or real emo
Finding Forrester is one of thise films that doesn't set the box office alight but is far better than the usual dross clogging up the screens around the UK. The story follows a young black american Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown) who lives in an urban part of New York and is quite gifted at writing but keeps it a secret from his friends. Jamal wins a scholarship to a prestigous New York school but faces some opposition from a bitter teacher (F. Murray Abraham). One day for a bet Jamal ventures into the apartment of a reclusive William Forrester (Connery) and is found out. Jamal finds out that Forrester is the author is a well respected book and slowly edges his way into Forresters life. Forrester at first is apprehensive but with time the pair become friends and he teaches Jamal the true ethics of writing that lead him to better his work. Of course the bitter teacher at the school doesn't beleive that Jamal is capable of such work and threatens to put foward motions to expel Jamal from the school which leads to Forrester being brought out of his apartment into the outside world. There is a lot that goes on in the plot and it's best to discover it yourself rather than have me explain it all. If you like drama then you'll find this very solid and enjoyable. Essentially it's a story of an unlikely friendship. The acting is excellent. Connery is one of those screen actors that radiates warmth while Brown is a young actor to watch and does an excellent job in his first ever role. There is also good support from Abraham, Anna Paquin and surprisingly Busta Rhymes ! Gus Van Sant shoots the film in minimal locations and does a good job of making Toronto look like New York. he even uses some of his more indie style film techniques in the editing but it never once detracts from the story. It has humour, a satisfying plot and is never mawkish and sentimental. Praise must also go to Van Sant for not mak
ing the young blaack actors a cliche in the Boyz In The Hood mould. There's also a wonderful Jazz soundtrack, nice cinematography and you won't be bored. This is a film that should have at least got some recognition in awards for its acting.
A reclusive author, whose only published novel won the Pulitzer Prize, becomes the mentor of an underprivileged and talented sixteen-year-old in "Finding Forrester," directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Sean Connery and newcomer Rob Brown. Young Jamal Wallace (Brown) is a star basketball player in his neighborhood, and-- unbeknownst to his peers-- also has a gift for writing. The acceptance he needs from his friends, however, that need to "fit in," is derived from playing ball; yet his heart is in his writing. But he knows that within the limited confines of his environs his skill with the written word means next to nothing in regards to his future, and he sees basketball as the only viable means of doing anything worthwhile with his life. That is, until one day circumstances bring him into contact with William Forrester (Connery); and it's an encounter that ultimately changes the direction of his life forever. Working from an intelligent, well crafted screenplay by Mike Rich, Van Sant establishes the milieu within which the story will unfold with his opening shot: A black youth setting the stage in rap. It's clever and effective, and the contrast between the rap at the beginning and the song at the end not only frames the film but underscores the impact of the story, as it succinctly encapsulates the changes in Jamal's life. As he did with "Drugstore Cowboy" and "Good Will Hunting," Van Sant successfully captures the essence of a particular culture and how those living within it relate to those apart from it. It's a study of human nature and the levels of diversity of which our society is comprised, and Van Sant does it exceedingly well. As far as performances go, Connery makes the most of one of his best roles in years. Perfectly cast as Forrester, he lends an adamant toughness to the character initially, then slowly and subtly allows the vulnerability that lies beneath the gruff exterior to surface. It make
s for a well-rounded, complete portrayal, as we see not only his iconoclastic leanings, but the very human and caring side of the man as well. And it's Connery's superlative performance, through which he conveys the complexities of the character so well, that illuminates the true depth and multi-faceted dimensions of Forrester; it is not only memorable, but worthy of an Oscar. In his motion picture debut, Brown takes the screen by storm; a storm that is at once gentle and discerning, yet endowed with a strength born of it's own momentum. With a manner reminiscent of Cuba Gooding Jr. in "Boyz N the Hood," he has a natural acting ability that commands attention, and if his performance here is any indication of his talents (which obviously it must be), then it is safe to say that the cinematic world has certainly just been enriched by his presence. The supporting cast includes F. Murray Abraham (Professor Robert Crawford), Anna Paquin (Claire), Busta Rhymes (Terrell), April Grace (Ms. Joyce), Michael Pitt (Coleridge) and Michael Nouri (Dr. Spence). An uplifting example of deriving hope from hopelessness, "Finding Forrester" is an entertaining and moving testimony to the resilience and depth of the human spirit. It's a film that will stay with you long after the screen has gone dark, for there is much here to be savored and embraced; a film too good to be allowed to let pass you by.
I went to see this film with my wife who really enjoyed it. Can I shout something here GOOD WILL HUNTING 2! Yes it was exactly like that wonderfull film except it came nowhere near its emotional involvement and intensity. Sean Connery was very dissapointing and played his usual old wise man role. His co-star R.Brown was better in my opinion but the film just seemed to lack any originality. The best bit about this film was Matt Damon's cameo at the end, which I felt was a bit tounge in cheek. The soundtrack was also poor, no subtlty. The film is about a young man who is growing up in the hood and tries to hide the fact that he is actually a very gifted writer. He meets Connery who is playing a reclusive writer who was the author of a very influential book in the 60s. Connery takes the young man under his wing a develops his writing style. This brings suspicion at the young mans school and he is forced with a decision to expose Connery or get kicked out of his school? I found this film very dissapointing and I don't think Connery should expect any awards for this Do-Do.
An unlikely friendship between a wily old recluse and a black teenager may not sound like the most inspiring celluloid partnership, but in Finding Forrester it works a treat. The strength of the two lead roles, Sean Connery as acclaimed novelist William Forrester and newcomer Robert brown as Jamal Wallace, makes this compelling and uplifting drama. Having grown up in the Bronx, New York, Jamal is a talented basketball player, but and even more gifted student. Due to some exceptional test scores he is given a scholarship at a top New York school where he mixes studying with shooting hoops. Helping him find the inspiration he needs is Forrester, an ageing recluse whose last literary success was a hit novel published several decades ago. The pair form a close bond and their relationship develops from frosty exchanges to close confidante. While life is far from straight forward for Jamal – with his new teacher Professor Crawford on his case from the moment he joins the school – the film nicely avoids the usual ghetto clichés focusing more on academic rather the racial tension. It would have been very easy for Jamal to have a typical soppy relationship with new school friend Claire Spence (Anna Paquin) but instead it is a refreshing change to see a more down to earth approach to their friendship. Finding Forrester does have its predictable moments but they can’t spoil what is a very well worked story.
I bet you've not heard of this film. I certainly hadn't before Monday night when an attack of cinema-itches prompted me to go and see the only film that looked vaguely intereting at Warners. Not knowing anything about the film, and presuming I had just missed hearing about a big new release, I booked my ticket online and paid the extra 40p, succumbing to one of Warner Brothers' bigger rip-offs. Thankfully I resisted the temptation to throw some of my loan at them in exchange for popcorn with no sauce on it. But that's a different rant entirely. Finding Forrester was only playing in one of the weeny cinemas downstairs, and didn't even have a full house 2 days after it was released. This points towards a quick exit from the cinema - go and see it now before you miss it! The story follows Jamal Wallace, a black kid in the Bronx with a talent for writing but dreams of basketball stardom. How are they gonna get this kid to meet Sean Connery's cranky ol' writer-chap, I thought to myself. Jamal undertakes a dare and enters Sean's apartment, leaves his bag behind and thus starts up an unlikely friendship (cliche alert). Now I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to refer to Sean as Sean throughout this review, mainly because I am obssessed with him. Lovely lovely man. ahem. anyway. He plays the cantankerous William Forrester, a one-hit wonder of an author who spends his days living off royalty cheques in a musty old apartment. Jamal goes on to private school, leaving behind his homies and enters a writing contest. I won't reveal any more of the plot; while the film is a bit long, and quite slow to get started, it's made u pfor by the high standard of acting. I've heard complaints that the storyline's predictable; I went to see it with a crowd of Cambridge undergrads and we all made hopelessly wrong guesses at the future events of the storyline. I didn't see the end coming at all, although apoar
ently it was very clear. Maybe I'm just stoopid. The acting in this flick is top-notch. Sean Connery brings pathos, vulnerability and likeability to a cranky old man, while Rob Brown's performance as Jamal is solidly good throughout. Sean was for me the standout performer of the film; he had me in tears at points while aching for him at others. He perfectly conveys the essence of William Forrester, a nervous yet brusque man weakened by years of solitude. While he is not present at the conclusion of the film, his performance preceding the end makes the script even more believable, and lends extra emotional punch to the conclusion. The movie is also beautifully shot in muted undertones and as daseaford has said, the opening montage of the bronx is great. I'm not a big fan of violent, gory action-fests, and as a soppy English student this film was perfect for me. I really think it's one of the undiscovered highlights of this year's cinema so far; it's got that x-factor meaning it's still touching me four days afterwards. I wanted to sit to the end of the credits, but my friends forced me to leave. Please go and tell me if there's a hannibal-stylee extra at the end, and I'll be eternally grateful!
In some ways, this is the cinematic equivalent of a Will Smith single - lots of samples, lots of extra stuff laid down over an essentially old sound to convince you that this is something new, and if you like it, that's fine, but it's still Stevie Wonder's record underneath. That Gus Van Sant is actually remixing his own movies is neither here nor there, fundamentally, you have probably seen 'Finding Forrester' before. Stop me when you've guessed; young inner city genius with no self-belief develops unlikely friendship with older bearded man who helps him to deal with his issues and achieve his full potential, which in turn helps the older man to face his own demons. Got it? Yes, it's 'Good Will Hunting'. The hero here is Jamal Wallace (Robert Brown) a basketball-loving black kid facing up to the fact that his intellectual gifts can only be developed outside the ghetto, away from his friends. The bearded older man is William Forrester (Sean Connery), a great writer who only wrote one book, and has lived as a recluse ever since. Jamal has to learn to embrace his gifts and find his voice as a writer; Forrester has to realise that he has been locked up (physically and spiritually) for too long. And guess what? They get raped and eaten by feral children instead. Actually, no, that's a lie - you know how this is going to turn out, that's one of the problems. This is a typically humane and heart-warming experience, beautifully shot and acted, with some nice dialogue and Van Sant's habitual affection for the people he's depicting. The opening montage of battered streets in the Bronx is superb, and the whole thing is shot in a dynamic, urgent style, but entirely without MTV bombast - energy without slickness, if you like. It's just that it's all so familiar; the relationship that develops between Jamal and Claire (Anna Paquin), a white fellow student, is largely presented witho
ut the usual black / white problems, which is refreshing, and the film is free of cliches about the inner city. There is one big surprise (the big sporting anti-climax, whose resolution is pretty much unheard of in the winners culture of Hollywood cinema), but other than that, the similiarities between this movie and 'Good Will Hunting' are unignorable. The latter movie was too neat, but the dialogue had real spark, and all the actors really sank their teeth into it. Here, while it's always a pleasure to see Connery at work - and he is very good - and Brown is effortless, holding his own with confidence and humour even in his scenes with Connery, Mike Rich's screenplay is just so much marshmellow. The one sort-of difference, F. Murray Abraham's character of the frustrated writer turned professor who puts hurdles in Jamal's way, is actually another borrowing. Abraham is simply re-running his best performance of Salieri in 'Amadeus', the cultivated but talentless older man who despises the gifts of the young. It's nice to see him in a good part, but it is one he's played with distinction before. Indeed, the great irony of the film is that Jamal is unjustly accused of plagiarism and has to fight back - but no-one seems to worry about the movie's borrowings. It is good to see a film where words and writing are exalted over sports, where learning and mental development is the ultimate goal of the hero's life, and I couldn't say that 'Finding Forrester' is a bad film - far from it, it's intelligent, compassionate and entertaining. It's just that having wasted his time on his carbon-copy 'Psycho', Van Sant's promising career seems to be backing into a dead end, and one would have hoped that he - and Connery - could find something more original to do.
Finding Forrester is the brand spanking new film from Gus Van Sant the director of Good Will Hunting, and it shows. The similarities are striking, except that where before we had a mathematical genius growing up in a bad white neighbourhood, we now have a literary genius in The Bronx. Professor Robin Williams is replaced by Pulitzer prize winning Sean Connery as the mentor and father figure of the piece. So those who liked or disliked Good Will Hunting can probably make an educated guess as to whether to give this film a try but for those unfamiliar with either, read on. Robert Brown plays Jamal Wallace a 16 year old with a passion for two things, basketball and the written word. Basketball is winning the battle for domination of his life due to the acceptance it gains him amongst friends and at school he gains only average grades due to lack of effort. Early on in the flick he befriends William Forrester, the prize-winning author and solitary hermit, who agrees to educate him in the ways of the word. Subsequently, high SAT scores cause interest from a private school who provide both basketball and literary education. A bitter high school teacher and the rivalry between sport and writing form the crux of what could have been a great feel good movie. Unfortunately Finding Forrester is a film of two parts. Because Sean Connery very rarely leaves his apartment scenes are either those with Forrester and Jamal or Jamal and everyone else. The former are wonderful to watch. Sean Connery is overflowing with charisma and no matter what he is doing his scenes are almost electric in places. He is perfectly suited to the role, playing a highly emotional, misunderstood, incredibly talented author. Newcomer Brown is also great and both have the perfect look for their parts. But without Connery, that is almost every scene outside the apartment, the film falls flat. Some of the performances including the comedic evil of both the teacher and an over protective fath
er of a female school friend are simply too unbelievable. Indeed, the latter whilst only on screen for 30 seconds is undoubtedly the low point of the film. The resultant lack of emotional depth causes the film to drag, a fact not helped by its predictability. Ultimately, Finding Forrester is worth watching because Sean Connery puts in his best performance for a long time and on form he really is a force to be reckoned with. But don't expect too much and be prepared for the odd grimace and a feeling of disappointment upon leaving the auditorium, because this film could have been so much more.
Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown) is a young black student from the wrong side of the tracks, but due to his great academic record and basketball talent he is accepted into a prestigious prep school in Manhattan. Through a series of lucky circumstances, he befriends a mysterious and reclusive writer, William Forrester (Sean Connery). The friendship becomes the catalyst for change in the lives of both characters as William overcomes his reclusivness and Jamal finds courage in the face of racial prejudices to pursue his true dream - writing. Directed by Gus Van Sant and co-starring Anna Paquin and Busta Rhymes.