Finding Forrester Reviews
One is a young man from the inner city with an untapped gift for writing that is overshadowed by his athleticism, while the other is an older, bitter recluse who found early success, only to basically immediately fall into obscurity. They have an uneasy non-romantic meet-cute that eventually leads them to becoming friends, with each being the spark the other needs to satisfy their need to create.
I honestly don't remember much about this movie, but I remember it being at least sit-throughable, despite its reputation for being cheesy. It's a nice heartwarming story that makes you feel good, so really, what's wrong with that? Okay, so I know that something like that isn't an immediate reason to give something a pass, but hey, I'm feeling like a softie, so back off.
It's not really one of Van Sant's best, at least in the grand scheme of things, but it's okay enough I suppose, and it's decently well made as far as these types of stories go, so sure, give it a watch.
Call it coincedence, but Jamal happens to meet and even become friends with a troubled, but famous author by the name of William Forrester (Sean Connery). Mr. Forrester only wrote one book, and that book was written over 40 years ago, but it is still very widely acclaimed. Jamal has a strong interest in touching up his great writing skills and he thinks that Mr. Forrester just might be able to help him on his path.
Like some of the other reviewers mentioned, "Finding Forrester" is a bit cliched, heartwarming, and so on, but that's not to take away from it being a great movie. As always, Sean Connery does a spectacular job of acting, and Rob Brown did a good job of playing as the ambitious Jamal Wallace.
Even as cliched and formulaic as "Finding Forrester" might be, it is still a great movie. If you're like me and you don't really care about how smart a movie is or how original it is in its innovations with plots, scripts, and so on, give "Finding Forrester" a chance. It's well worth it. It's a great movie of inspiration, tough times, and finding the fire inside to be the best you can be. NOTE: That was my Amazon review from the year 2001. I always love self-discovery and coming of age movies!
An afro-american teen writing prodigy finds a mentor in a reclusive author.
Authentic, high-concept, the film refreshes with its wonderful storytelling through setting and rich characterization, sold perfectly by an outstanding core of actors. The character of Jamal played brilliantly by an unknown, Rob Brown; he manages to make me wonder whether he really isn't Jamal. Sean Connery is wonderful to watch as an eccentric Salinger-type author, F. Murray Abraham played this as perfect as anything seen, and every supporting actor performed such that we are never disturbed from the story. And the director certainly gets credit for balancing high-concept with the constraints. Whatever style he used to guide his cast, it surely let them shine and sold the movie.
Upon second watching, the evocative soundtrack provides deep storytelling wonder not found in even many of the prominent great films which relied on the soundtrack to reverberate emotionally--not provide more story elements.
What still stays with me is the haunting closing with a beautiful song medley, arranged such that the overplayed songs are given new life and totally different candor, and a camera angle that my slow wit only picked up on the second time: the shot was from the apartment.
"You write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head."
It's a relatively long while before such major characters as Sean Connery's titular William Forrester character comes into play, and focal inconsistencies don't end there, peaking at that point, sure, but convoluting narrative structure throughout the course of this layered drama, thanks largely to the film's spending a touch too much time focusing on each individual layer. An intimate drama which flirts with a relatively whopping runtime of 140 minutes, this film, no matter how compelling, outstays its welcome, and it really begins to try your patience once you begin to get used to Gus Van Sant's thoughtful directorial pacing, which then devolves to limpness that all but bores you while you await a height in storytelling. Of course, once these heights come into play, they are themselves a little problematic, placing certain cheesy and far-fetched themes in a dramatic context that results in a certain sentimentality which kind of betrays the drama that is generally realized in its bite. A no point is the film ever all that corny, but honestly, it can get a little overblown and ambitious with its dramatics, almost in a dramatically lazy fashion that reinforces a predictability which is established in the first place by conventions. I suppose a sense of inspiration within Van Sant's direction gives the film something of a refreshing feel, but once you cut through the veil, it's hard to deny that this story is hardly anything new, even for Van Sant, being not much more than an urban/white savior answer to "Good Will Hunting" that takes tropes both from the Van Sant classic and a number of other urban dramas, until it feels hopelessly derivative on the whole, no matter how hard Van Sant tries, to an extent that is. Like I said, there are lazy spots in Van Sant's storytelling, and they shine a light on shortcomings in the narrative itself, until the final product finds its reward value threatened. Of course, it is ultimately firmly secured by inspiration that outweighs the shortcomings, anchored by good tastes, even in music.
Deciding to give Danny Elfman a break for a while, ostensibly because he didn't want to run the risk of drawing yet more comparisons between this film and "Good Will Hunting", Gus Van Sant plays with an unoriginal soundtrack that recycles modernist minimal compositions and even a couple free jazz pieces which do anything from liven up entertainment value to compliment dramatic tenderness in a manner that is genuinely unique, and therefore helps in compensating for the lack of uniqueness to the narrative. The film is rather held back by its story's sheer familiarity, which you have time to ponder upon due to the draggy telling of such a story concept, and yet, no matter how familiar, this subject matter is worthy as a tasteful and surprisingly not-too cloying portrait on working to better yourself, both on the path to a new life and in the twilight of life, whose effectiveness can be made or broken by its interpretation. Mike Rich's script is overblown, both with its histrionics and, of course, with its structure, which is often uneven and overblown, yet still pretty tightly extensive in a lot of ways, particularly when it comes to characterization that is well-rounded in crafting derivative, but intriguing characters, brought to life by strong performances. These performances are underwritten in a drama this minimalist, but just about everyone plays his or her part as best he or she can, with leads Rob Brown and Sean Connery carrying the film, not just with charisma and nuance, but with a thoroughly endearing chemistry that helps in defining this intimate character study. Brown and Connery take this drama with subtlety and grace, and that's more than you can say about many of the storytelling attributes of this drama, but not too much more than what you can say than most storytelling touches, from Van Sant, that is. Working with a conceptually sensitive drama, Van Sant holds the power to either drive the film as consistently compelling, or cut it short of realized, and while Van Sant stands to have a more comfortable grip on this sometimes sentimental affair, his steady and thoughtful approach, more than it is slow, is charming, with a tastefulness that allows you to get a feel for the weight of this intimate endeavor, particularly when backed by highlights in dramatic kick that move. I suppose the film stands to be more consistent in his realization, but the fact of the matter is that this is a worthy story, and Van Sant knows it, doing what he can to craft a generally rewarding character study.
In closing, uneven focus and pacing all but aimlessly drag the film along a path so sentimental and formulaic that it threatens the final product, but on the backs of a solid unoriginal score, well-characterized script, strong acting and chemistry, - particularly between Rob Brown and Sean Connery - and tasteful direction, all behind worthy subject matter, "Finding Forrester" compels and rewards as an urban melodrama on embracing the opportunities handed to you in life.
3/5 - Good