Finding Forrester (2000) / Drama
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual references
Running Time: 136 min.
Cast: Sean Connery, Robert Brown, F. Murray Abraham, Anna Paquin, Busta Rhymes
Director: Gus Van Sant
Screenplay: Mike Rich
Review published January 21, 2001
There are many who will immediately compare Finding Forrester with the film that put Gus Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy, Paris I Love You) on the Academy Award map, Good Will Hunting. Surely, this must have been on the minds of the makers of this new inspirational film and I'm also sure Gus Van Sant was eager to get back into a comfort zone after the fiasco that was the remake of Psycho.
In Finding Forrester, Sean Connery (Entrapment, Playing by Heart) stars as William Forrester, who 50 years ago wrote one of the great novels of the 20th century. After many accolades, including the Pulitzer, he hasn't written another novel since and has dropped off the literary map into a world of obscurity. Now he spends his days as a hermit, secluded in his high-rise Bronx apartment afraid to go outside for even the most essential of life's necessities, spending much of his time watching the young African-american boys play basketball across the street. This unnerves the young men, who believe the wild rumors about the man nicknamed "The Window", and one night they decide to have Jamal (Brown, Coach Carter), the best and brightest among them, break into Forrester's house and see what's the what. Jamal is startled by Forrester, but leaves his backpack behind, and when Forrester returns it, Jamal finds that Forrester has read the contents of his homework complete with grades on his writing. Out of curiosity, Jamal returns to Forrester's apartment seeking guidance and answers, which is reluctantly given, and soon the two become teacher and pupil, and ultimately friends.
There probably isn't a scene that wasn't done before repeatedly in the world of Hollywood inspirational cinema, and the role of Forrester seems a little too much like the Terence Mann character in Field of Dreams, from his turn from great writer to recluse, his love of baseball, all the way down to the similar hats they wear. Yet, despite this being a wholly predictable drama, Finding Forrester delivers every predictable scene with assuredness, making all the points it needs to work even if it never deviates from it's designated path.
Sean Connery gives himself (he was also one of the movie's producers) his best role in years, while Robert Brown breaks through with confidence despite this being his first movie work as an actor. Gus Van Sant may have done this type of material before, but shows why he came back -- he is good at it. In addition, Mike Rich's (The Rookie, Radio) first screenplay made into a film may be by the numbers, but it's still quality work within the confines of the convention.Finding Forrester may not be groundbreaking by any stretch, and will most likely be forgotten by most who view it within days after seeing it. It's also not likely to make anyone pick up a book or explore a pursuit into creative writing. However, it is still a well-oiled machine of a drama with it's only weak points being that someone else has beaten them to the punch.
©2001 Vince Leo