Movies

good-will-hunting-original-1BY TONY BOUZA

Movies are America’s pre-eminent art form. I love them.
As I lay reading, Erica was watching a movie we’d seen, and enjoyed, years ago—“Good Will Hunting.” I vaguely looked. A romantic comedy about a genius at Harvard whose math mentor is frustrated by the hero’s reluctance or inability to access or use his talents.
The mentor enlists an analyst to dismantle the blockage. Robin Williams gives a wonderful performance as the guide through the labyrinth of Matt Damon’s mind.
It turns out Damon—who delivers in a way to forever emblazon his acting chops on our imagination—had been the victim of incestuous abuse as a child and had been paralyzed by guilt. The denouement is the highlight of a very good film that ends with our hero motoring into the sunset toward the arms of the wonderful young woman who loves him—and a deserved Oscar.
A delightfully wrought tale—but, wait, there’s more.
It is the subtext that really makes this movie transcend the limits of conventional drama.
In what was for me the key scene, Damon is summoned to a lucrative job offer.
An alpha type sits behind a desk with the sun behind him, casting his face into a masky shadow. We cannot fathom his expression. Next to Damon sits an Air Force general. Damon is offered a big job. The Temptation of Christ revisited.
It turns out that the power figure is from the National Security Agency (prophetic or what?).
Damon launches into a vigorous diatribe denouncing the NSA for such geopolitical shenanigans as plotting to control other nations’ oil, while the natives struggle on 15 cents a day and Damon’s own blue collar buddies still pay $2.50 a gallon for gas (expensive, then). And the beneficiaries? The Military Industrial Complex of Eisenhower fame.
It proves a vehement denunciation of the unholy marriage between the military and our One Percenters, protected by the NSA.
In a delicious antithesis, who do you think the cunning writers (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) of this epic set up as the hero?
None other than a man I was very proud to number among my special friends—Howard Zinn. When Damon invokes Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” its sales soared. No one ever deserved success more than this vaguely socialist, committed populist and avatar of the left.
Irony of ironies. Where “Casablanca” and “The Maltese Falcon” contented themselves with being gripping dramas, “Good Will Hunting’s” ambitions swelled. And the relevance of its lesson cannot be ignored by an age troubled by such questions as to whether Snowden is a hero or a traitor and the role of the National Security Agency in all our lives.
Thank the Lord stuff like this can still be written. God Bless the United States of America.

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