An afro-american teen writing prodigy finds a mentor in a reclusive author.
Gus Van Sant
Sean Connery, Rob Brown, F. Murray Abraham, Anna Paquin, Busta Rhymes, April Grace, Michael Pitt, Michael Nouri, Richard Easton, Glenn Fitzgerald, Lil’ Zane, Stephanie Berry, Fly Williams III, Damany Mathis, Damien Lee
It could definitely have been a better movie, but then again what movie can’t you say that about? In terms of plot and character development what it needed most was another 30 minutes, but at two and a quarter hours already most studios would never allow that. (Note that the movie did not seem nearly that long to me.) Perhaps the plot and story could have been tighter, but it’s really a remarkable job for first-time screenwriter Mike Rich.
The acting, while not always remarkable, was quite good. Connery brilliantly underplayed Forrester, yielding a less dramatic but much more realistic portrayal of the writer. Rob Brown’s portrayal of Jamal was equally reserved yet forceful. The directing held the two characters in balance well. The other characters were well-acted though not generally well-developed (hence much criticism of this movie).
Others have compared Finding Forrester to Goodwill Hunting (also directed by Gus Van Sant) and to Scent of a Woman, suggesting that it is just a ripoff of the plot in those two. If so (which I doubt), those are two pretty good movies to plagiarize. The basic concept of Forrester’s story (first novel wins Pulitzer — what do you do for an encore?) has also been done before, but I’ve never seen it done so well (and without resorting to The Bottle as an excuse for a wasted life).
What’s been missed in the reviews I checked was a discussion of who found whom. When you boil it down, Jamal found Jamal and Forrester found Forrester (just in time), though they found themselves by reaching out to each other and forming a bond of friendship across a gulf of age, suspicion, and race. The way they do this, without the usual twists of self-destruction and miraculous salvation, is both touching and refreshingly real. And finding oneself, in its essence, is what EVERY good drama is about, so, yes, there is a similarity to Goodwill and Scent and every other good movie ever made.
All in all, while not The Great American Movie, it’s a very good movie and well worth watching.