Good Will Hunting
(Miramax Collector's Series)

Starring: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Robin Williams, Minnie Driver
Sound: Dolby Digital (5.1)
Format: letterboxed 1.85:1
Length: 126 minutes
Director: Gus Van Sant

SOUND: 4.5

Call me a sucker for troubled prodigy stories. While watching Good Will Hunting, I was reminded of a film from 1991 that I thoroughly enjoyed, Little Man Tate. I felt like the young genius of Jodie Foster's film could have matured into the troubled Will of this film's title.

Will Hunting (Matt Damon) spends his days at MIT - not as a student, but as a janitor. The rest of his time is spent with his working-class pals, courting trouble on the streets of South Boston. But underneath the gruff exterior, Will is a mathematical genius. He surreptitiously proves a theorem posted in the halls of the Institute, drawing the attention of Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård), who wants to help Will fulfil his potential. When all conventional methods fail, Lambeau calls upon an old friend, Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) for help.

The screenplay of Good Will Hunting(which netted writers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck Oscars) works a lot of interesting angles. On the surface are personal journeys by Will and Sean, but reading between the lines reveals a great deal of class conflict. The contrasts of Boston - home to Southie's scruffy laborers and Harvard's ivy leauge intellectuals - are perfectly drawn. There's a lot about love, too. Will is falling in love with Skylar (Minnie Driver) - a Harvard girl. And Sean recounts with relish his love for his departed wife. I found this to be a quite enlightening film, and my favorite of 1997.

Now there is a fabulous DVD version of Good Will Huntingto cherish. Miramax has created their first Collector's Series title, and thankfully, it's loaded. Most importantly, the disc includes an off-the-cuff but dense commentary from Damon, Affleck and director Gus Van Sant. There are also 11 deleted scenes with commentary. From the press kit file, we have a featurette, raw behind-the-scenes footage, TV commercials, a trailer, and a montage created for the Academy Awards. There is also a music video for Elliot Smith's Oscar-nominated song "Miss Misery."

The film transfer on this disc is strong. Although not enhanced for 16x9 displays, the image retains an amazing amount of detail. Small items, such as the pattern of a milk crate in Will's bedroom, show up incredibly sharp and clear. The color scheme is very subdued, mostly in golden hues, however skin tones are consistent, and the occasional flashes of bright blues and reds show up brilliantly and cleanly.  The lighting in the film is also striking, with strong, harsh bright spots in some scenes. These types of flaws seem inherent in the source material. The only negatives in the image are a tad bit more film grain than average and a few isolated compression artifacts (chalkboards fare poorly for some reason).

The soundtrack on this disc is presented in only Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's audio is primarily clean, naturalistic dialogue, but the soundtrack also creates wonderful ambiance. Classrooms, bars and exterior locations all have character from subtle surround enhancement. The music score is also wonderfully enveloping. A fight scene early in the film is notable for interesting use of sound collage.

Miramax has set a great example with this Collector's Series DVD. Let's hope they can live up to the same  standard on future releases. If they're all this good, I won't mind paying their outrageous prices (about $40 retail). This is a movie I had to own, and a DVD I'm proud to show off as a highlight of my collection.

- Derek Miner

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