Finding Forrester


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Finding Forrester
"Hiding beneath the mask of radical chic lies a deeply sentimental story."

It seems like forever since Sean Connery was stretched. He prefers to remain within sight of land (Entrapment, Rising Sun), indicating a fear of the unknown, or an astute recognition of market forces.

Finding Forrester begins with Gus Van Sant's visual trademark - street scenes of underprivileged kids doing nothing with style. You feel this isn't Connery country. There are black people everywhere.

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In fact, it's Good Will Hunting meets Dead Poets Society on Spike Lee's patch. Hiding beneath the mask of radical chic lies a deeply sentimental story.

A shy, unmotivated 16-year-old from the Bronx, called Jamal (Rob Brown), becomes friends with an alcoholic recluse, who, 30 years before, won the Pulitzer Prize with his first and only novel. This is William Forrester, a legend amongst the Eng Lit set, although it's hard to believe that one slim volume was enough to secure intellectual immortality.

His apartment is filled with expensively bound tomes and corny Victorian paintings of stags at bay. He spends his afternoons spying through binoculars on black kids in the basketball court across the road.

It turns out that he's not some geriatric purve, but a grumpy old man with a Scottish slur, who has groceries delivered from the posh part of town by a guy who dresses like a lawyer. Either he hates the human race, or finds the company of strangers a threat.

Jamal is also a writer. He scribbles thoughts in notebooks. Forrester finds these. "Write. Don't think," he barks. "Do the first draft with your heart, rewrite with your head." Jamal listens, doesn't say much. Almost by default, Forrester becomes the boy's mentor.

Connery relishes the chance to break free from leadership roles. Forrester may have a glass of whisky in his hand at all times, but doesn't stagger into furniture. The need for heroism remains strong, which means he is the same as always, except not in uniform. The studio apartment becomes his battleground. Instead of 007's arsenal, he has a typewriter.

Rob Brown is not an actor. He's in junior year at high school and plays basketball. Jamal avoids the ghetto rap cool dude attitude and Brown relates to that, comfortable in low-key.

Van Sant built a reputation with edgy independent movies and yet ever since the success of Good Will Hunting has been moving into the middle of the road.

Finding Forrester wants to be taken seriously. The message is positive, the feelgood feels good. In the end, however, it is artificial. Van Sant knows how tough life can be. He's been there (Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho, To Die For). The sweetness of this odd friendship works beautifully as an idea, but not in reality.

Also, why does Connery ride his bike like Mary Poppins?

Reviewed on: 05 Jan 2002
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Sean Connery plays a famous reclusive writer who makes friends with a kid from The Bronx.
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Director: Gus Van Sant

Writer: Mike Rich

Starring: Sean Connery, Rob Brown, F Murray Abraham, Anna Paquin, Busta Rhymes

Year: 2000

Runtime: 134 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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