Volume 94, Issue 64

Wednesday, January 17, 2001


Van Sant repeats success - Bright newcomer carries film

Antitrust fails with distracting labels

Gangsta rap rides again!

Van Sant repeats success - Bright newcomer carries film

Photo by Demmie Todd
WHAT DO YOU MEAN 'I'M THE MAN NOW?' AND WHY ARE YOU CALLING ME A DOG? Anna Paquin and Rob Brown take a stroll down lover's land in Finding Forrester.

Finding Forrester
Starring: Sean Connery, Rob Brown, Anna Paquin
Directed By: Gus Van Sant

By Paul-Mark Rendon
Gazette Staff

Gus Van Sant is back in an attempt to outdo his Good Will Hunting excellence with Finding Forrester, an inner city story of an intellectual diamond-in-the-rough.

The tale takes place on the rough streets of the South Bronx in New York City, where Jamal (Rob Brown) uses his talent on the basketball court to shroud his affinity for writing.

When friends dare him to break into a mysterious apartment in a display of bravado, he discovers the apartment's occupant is William Forrester (Sean Connery), a famous Pulitzer-winning writer whose eccentricities have turned him into a social recluse for the past 40 years.

Jamal and Forrester go on to develop a symbiotic relationship. Jamal acts as a catharsis for the aged wordsmith, who seemingly hasn't stepped out of his apartment since books were printed on papyrus. Forrester helps to hone the 16-year-old into a true writer, sans-alcohol affliction, of course.

The plot thickens when Jamal is accused of plagiarism by an anal-retentive professor (F. Murray Abraham), whose failure to become an acclaimed writer himself has made him bitter beyond his years. Jamal is forced to prove his work is original and a test of his relationship with Forrester ensues.

The movie has stark similarities to Van Sant's earlier film Good Will Hunting; a young talent in need of guidance finds a mentor who helps his excellence come to the fore. In this way, much of the plot becomes predictable as the usual host of characters on the margin make their appearances.

Although she plays a minimal role, the token love interest, Claire (Anna Paquin), does an awful-enough job to ruin just about every scene she's in. Her acting is glaringly contrived and makes you want to do anything to make her stop.

As well, Van Sant's attempt to instill a sense of nostalgia into some scenes is often overdone. For example, Forrester's hideaway apartment is inundated with copious elements of nostalgia. Jazz plays longingly in the background, the camera pans excruciatingly slowly across the room, and several million black and white photographs hang on the walls. It's enough to make you feel like an octogenarian by the film's end.

The film does have its bright spots. Newcomer Brown is the movie's saving grace. He's refreshing and pulls off the role of a reluctant phenom with ease and charm. Connery plays the J.D. Salinger-wannabe with style, and rap star Busta Rhymes puts in a small, but genuine performance as Jamal's older brother.

As soundtracks go, Finding Forrester's is probably worth taking a look at the next time you're at the CD shop. You'll be pleased if you're a jazz-lover; Miles Davis makes numerous appearances and many other tracks are worthy of a second listen.

Although Van Sant makes several obvious attempts at short-cutting his way to profundity, Finding Forrester shouldn't be a Oscar-nomination surprise when next year rolls around. Break it down to individual performances and you may not be too happy with what is wrought, but take Finding Forrester as a package and you'll be pleased.

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Copyright The Gazette 2000