Prestige versus love

Synopsis: A troublesome young janitor at MIT, Will Hunting (Matt Damon), shocks the faculty when he solves the “unsolvable” math equation. After his delinquent behaviour lands him in jail, a professor (Robin Williams) bails him out on the condition that the youth attends therapy.

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This is one of those movies that gained instant cult status. The world was so taken by Good Will Hunting that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck became stars over night, and Hollywood awarded them with Oscars for an original screenplay. That’s right: Matt Damon & Ben Affleck were the screenwriters of this remarkable film. I remember thinking that they were geniuses, and it never occurred to me that they would have such rich acting careers.

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Like so many Gus Van Sant films, Good Will Hunting is layered with existentialist pondering embodied in characters. Was there anyone who didn’t fall in love with the rebellious genius (Will) who mocks the traditional, patriarchal education system? Was there anyone who wasn’t frightened by arrogance with which he tore apart other people’s lives? Was there anyone who didn’t want to hug and kiss him when he revealed details of the physical abuse he suffered as a child? And was there anyone who didn’t breathe a sigh of relief when he decided to pass up the business opportunity that so many dream of to “go see about a girl”?

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What makes the movie so loveable is the unpretentious manner in which it delivers the point that life is about more than achieving prestige. This is a wonderful reminder, especially in this day and age when societies have become obsessed with success.

The question that is most on my mind now, is whether it’s possible to be both prestigious and successful in love. The movie seems to suggest that this is an impossibility. After having been conditioned to attend therapy, Will finds himself with two father figures who stand in opposition to one another. On the one hand there is Sean, who has based his every decision on love for his wife, missing out even a historic moment in baseball. And then there’s professor Lambeau who only seems to be concerned with mathematical achievements, setting aside all other pleasures.

This dichotomy is perfectly illustrated in one scene when Sean and Lambeau argue about Will’s future. Lambeau likens Will to Einstein, citing that it would be a great shame, if not even irresponsible to the future generations if Will’s talent was wasted. Sean, however, is insistent that Will has no obligation towards anyone but himself.

I for one think that nothing is impossible, but it is true that some of the greatest minds in history lived a lonesome lifestyle, without a spouse or a family.

What do you think about all this?

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7 thoughts on “Prestige versus love

  1. I think that life is about choice. Some people have a desire to be successful in only one area of their lives whilst others try to seek perfection in all areas. I guess most people, rightly or wrongly, seek a balance. ‘Success’ will be defined differently by everyone who seeks it. It also depends on the attitudes /support of those around you. Families can work towards common goals and help one or more members achieve success but it would be essential for the whole family to work together and share the same desires. I personally think it is possible, though rare, to achieve both.

  2. I think a more interesting question is to ask whether people ever feel like they’ve achieved success. To what extent do the goal posts move once aims have been achieved.

  3. When this movie ended, I found myself finding comfort in his choice because he was taking his intelligence with him. His prestige was an accolade he would achieve through the application of his gift, and although he passed on this particular opportunity to have financial gain, I was confident another opportunity would reveal itself in the future. I think he felt that was as well. In the case of love, one can never be certain another opportunity would come along, and this is why he chose to chase her.
    He made the safest choice, in my opinion.

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