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The film Finding Forrester is a movie about a young boy, Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown) that lives in the Bronx. He has an intellectual talent for writing, quite contrary to his stereotypical ghetto friends. Jamal meets and befriends William Forrester, once a great Pulitzer Prize winning author who now lives in solitary. Forrester mentors Jamal and teaches him life lessons. Jamal in turn helps Forrester break free of his tough, leathery shell and reclusive life. This movie, although slightly boring and predictable, highlights the breakdown of stereotypes in our culture and the relationships that blossom through pure chance. I do not recommend watching this movie in theaters; save your money.
Overall, the storyline is unoriginal and dull. It begins during a casual basketball game. Jamal and his friends notice someone hiding behind a window curtain, looking down at them. Known to the boys as “The Window”, William Forrester (Sean Connery) lives alone, never leaving his apartment. This may sound interesting, but to me, this is the only part of the movie that raises curiosity and suspense. After school one day, Jamal’s friends dare him to break into the author’s apartment. Jamal climbs in through the window and ultimately gets spooked by Forrester, leaves his book bag behind, and flees down the fire escape. If it were my home, the police would be called; however, Forrester doesn’t find it necessary. Surprisingly, the next day Jamal’s backpack is dropped to the street. Well, Jamal recovers his book bag and he finds his journals marked up with corrections, praises and other remarks. Unbelievably, Jamal, wishing to discuss the editorial markups in his journal, returns to Forrester’s apartment. I cannot imagine a teenager returning to confront the owner of the apartment he broke into the day before. After knocking on the door, the grumpy author hollers at him to stay away and tells him he should consider writing a 5000 word essay on why he belongs out of his house. The following day, Jamal returns to deliver the essay by leaving it outside Forrester’s door. Can you guess what happens next? I can. These two characters officially meet face to face the following day when Jamal returns to ask about the essay he left behind. Forrester allows Jamal to enter his home. After a few racist remarks were sputtered, testing Jamal’s character, a unique friendship begins. Would you befriend Jamal after he breaks into your home? Also, I do not believe black men or women would tolerate racial slurs or remarks that Forrester feels necessary to express. To me the cliché, “only in the movies” rings true. Resuming with the plot, Forrester is amazed at Jamal’s writing and begins to counsel him on intellect, writing, and life. During this time Jamal receives a scholarship to an élite private school typically attended by rich children with a far different background than him. There he meets Claire Spence (Anna Paquin) and his professor, Henry Crawford (F. Murray Abraham). Claire shows Jamal around his new school and a strong bond cultivates. However, Professor Henry Crawford believes Jamal is only attending the school for his basketball skills and can’t believe he is there for any other reason. After all, Jamal is an avid basketball player. The school is inevitably hoping to receive the coveted trophy at the end of the season and Jamal is the boy to do it. After several weeks, Crawford accuses Jamal of plagiarism when he submits a paper he wrote for a writing contest. Conflict and unexciting suspense finally happens again when the professor claims the paper had similarities to an essay Forrester once published. When Jamal refuses to admit he plagiarized or received permission from Forrester himself, he was eliminated from the competition. I would not go out of my way to watch this movie. The ending, with its rather soft climax and humdrum resolution provides entertainment for Sunday mornings when you have absolutely nothing else to do, but watch television.
Although, Sean Connery did a wonderful job playing the character of author, William Forrester, I would rather see him playing the role of 007 in James Bond or something with a bit more excitement. I do not think he could do a horrendous job acting even if he was casted in this monotonous movie. Rob Brown’s acting of Jamal Wallace is rather mediocre. His movements and actions throughout the film were forgettable. I believe he did a satisfactory job representing his character; I just can’t brag about his acting abilities in this film. Although, he never plays a leading role, F. Murray Abraham, is also an experienced actor. He ranks near the top of the list with Sean Connery. He did an acceptable job performing his role as Professor Henry Crawford. Even though his character was slightly far-fetched, his acting was believable. At the very end of the film, Matt Damon makes an appearance as Forrester’s attorney. He is an excellent actor, but the part he plays in Finding Forrester is extremely small. Overall the actors received a passable grade for their abilities to play their parts in this somewhat lame movie.
We expect far-fetched movie plots in science fiction or movies about green, three-headed monsters. While watching this flick, you want to believe what you see is true and some aspects are indeed genuine. Every day, we see intellectual children and teenagers do remarkable things, achieve the unachievable. Personally, if you are going to make a film that others can relate to, specifically, black, inner city teenagers, then everything in the storyline should be realistic.
Honestly, I have to admit, I find movies that break stereotypical boundaries motivational, but I would not waste my money paying inflated ticket prices to see Finding Forrester in the theater. I suppose every movie can’t be full of suspense and action. To me, this 3 out of 5 star movie is best watched on HBO or Showtime. Save your money. Don’t see it at the theaters.
Finding Forrester, Dir. Gus Van Sant, 2000, Columbia; Fountainbridge Films; Laurence Mark Productions, DVD, 136 minutes.
Sean Connery: William Forrester
Rob Brown: Jamal Wallace
F. Murray Abraham: Professor Henry Crawford
Anna Paquin: Claire Spence
Busta Rhymes: Terrell
April Grace: Ms. Joyce
Michael Pitt: Coleridge
Michael Nouri: Dr. Spence
Richard Easton: Matthews
Glen Fitzgerald: Massie
Zane R. Copeland Jr.: Damon
Stephanie Berry: Janice
Fly Williams III: Fly
Damany Mathis: Kenzo
Damien Lee: Clay
Matthew Noah Word: Coach Garrick
Charles Bernstein: Dr. Simon
Matt Malloy: Bradley
Matt Damon: Sanderson
3 out of 5 stars
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