Finding Forrester

Finding Forrester

A mutually beneficial friendship develops between a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who has lived for forty years as an eccentric recluse and a young BlFinding Forrester could have been a shallow variant of The Karate Kid, congratulating itself for featuring a 16-year-old black kid from the South Bronx who’s a brilliant scholar-athlete. Instead, director Gus Van Sant plays it matter-of-fact and totally real, casting a nonactor (Rob Brown) as Jamal, a basketball player and gifted student whose writing talent is nurtured by a famously reclusive author. William Forrester (Sean Connery) became a literary icon four decades earlier with a Pulitzer-winning novel, then disappeared (like J.D. Salinger) into his dark, book-filled apartment, agoraphobic and withdrawn from publishing, but as passionate as ever about writing. On a dare, Jamal sneaks into Forrester’s musty sanctuary, and what might have been a condescending cliché–homeboy rescued by wiser white mentor–turns into an inspiring meeti

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5 thoughts on “Finding Forrester

  1. Review by for Finding Forrester
    Jamal Wallace (Robert Brown [in his screen debut]), a high school student living in the Bronx, does all of the right things. He goes to school, he plays basketball and he hides his intelligence. In an effort to be accepted by his friends and colleagues, he receives straight Cs and most of his teachers recognize that he is capable of more. After receiving very high scores on the Statewide standardized exams, his teachers urge him to accept a scholarship at a private school in Manhattan. He goes to check it out and meets Claire (Anna Paquin), his guide for the day. The school is very interested in having him join the basketball team, to help them make it to the championship. Jamal finds that he might be challenged here and decides to attend. Jamal has also just met an old recluse living in the top floor of an old brownstone near his basketball court. The recluse (Sean Connery), a local legend as a scary being, reads some of Jamal’s writing and encourages him to write more. They meet daily in the old man’s apartment and he stirs Jamal’s creative juices, getting him to further enhance his already considerable writing skill. Jamal soon learns that the old man is William Forrester, a J.D. Salinger-esque novelist who wrote one widely acclaimed novel (think “Catcher In The Rye”) and then disappeared from public view.

    I have always enjoyed the work of Sean Connery. His screen presence has always been magnetic and he has used that to great advantage in most of his films. He earned fame and riches from playing icons, creating a character that will probably forever be credited to him. He has been unable to shake that character even though the last time he played the character was over fifteen years ago. Connery has created some incredible performances through the years. He played an aging Robin Hood against an aging Maid Marian (Audrey Hepburn) in a very good film that many people have never heard of. He played a great thief in a film called “The Anderson Tapes”. He played a great con man that would become “The Man Who Would Be King”. He played an aging mentor in “The Untouchables” adding a lot of class and earning an Academy Award for his portrayal. He has played a lot of memorable roles that challenged his acting skills. He has also appeared in films like “Meteor”, “Just Cause” and “First Knight”. Truly terrible films that only served to mar his work. However, he has never played a character like William Forrester. We have all seen characters like this in a number of films. A recluse, a famous person, a bombastic person. Yet Connery brings a quality to the role that is very unique. Often, actors use this type of role to chew the scenery and run around screaming and yelling. This only serves to undermine the character. If the character is an old man or woman where are they getting all of this energy. Connery plays the character old. He does raise his voice, but to make a point. He does impart his wisdom, but his wisdom makes sense. I actually believed that he was a writer, listening to the advice he gives his young protege. It is an incredibly rich performance that should know become the standard for which Sean Connery is judged. James who?

    Rob Brown brings a lot to the role and manages to hold his own against Connery. This is no small feat. A lot of this can be credited to his naturalistic performance. Brown has obviously lived through events that are very similar to those depicted on the screen and he channels his own emotions to that of the character. One of the many good things about the film is that Jamal and Forrester seem to teach and learn from each other, enriching each other’s lives.

    Gus Van Sant returns to territory that is very similar to “Good Will Hunting”, but he creates a different mood and feel, helping to set “Finding Forrester” apart from the other film. The film opens with a shot of a marker with Van Sant’s name on it followed by some documentary style footage of kids in the neighborhood. This immediately heightens our awareness of the neighborhood and the people who live there. It is actually a great touch, bringing the audience into this world very quickly and effectively. The film is then told in a fairly conventional style as Van Sant concentrates on the characters and the story. The film moves at a leisurely pace; it takes about four meetings between Jamal and Forrester before they actually start working together. This allows us to get to know these characters in what seems a natural way.

    Van Sant and the writer, Mike Rich, another first timer, focus on a lot of details which make the film seem very rich. Jamal’s mom, Ms. Joyce (April Grace), is a very good mother who encourages her son and provides a good home. His brother, Terrel (Busta Rhymes), encourages Jamal to take chances, to avoid making the same mistakes he made. He had dreams of being a rapper but is now the supervisor of parking services at Yankee Stadium. He hasn’t achieved his dreams, but he doesn’t let this make him bitter. Jamal’s friends are also a very close bunch. Forrester is a recluse, yet he insults the few people who are required to visit him on a regular basis. These details may seem insignificant, but they help create a richly textured film.

    F. Murray Abraham plays the English professor at Jamal’s new school and he is very effective. His snobbishness affects his every exchange with people. They are either less intelligent or undeserving of such an education. Anna Paquin plays a young girl who becomes closer to Jamal. Her performance is very good because she seems more attracted to Jamal for the dangerous aspect of an interracial relationship. At times, she seems to wonder if she is actually attracted to Jamal or the color of his skin.

    I found one thing odd. In a film about writing, we hear almost none of either writer’s work. We hear a couple of lines here and there, but it is difficult to take that in in such a brief period of time. I would have liked to hear more of the writing in the final competition, to get more of a sense of the authors work. Instead, Van Sant shows us reaction shots of the various students, set to music, which I didn’t feel was very effective.

    “Finding Forrester” is one of the best films of the year. Connery is great, the direction and writing are rich and subtle and the film is very enjoyable.

  2. Review by D. Keating for Finding Forrester
    I rented this video mainly because of Sean Connery. I was pleasantly surprised: this is a great movie. It is somewhat similar to Good Will Hunting, but I found this plot more interesting, and less predictable. The storyline basically follows the bond that forms between the two main characters. I think that the stark contrast between these two(old white reclusive man vs. young black charismatic boy) really adds an intesting angle to the story. The idea that two very different people can build a relatioship from a common passion (in this case writing) is a fascinating idea. I also like the fact that the films does get into racial issues (stereotypes, mixed race couples, athletes and academics), but they do not form the nucleus of the plot. Instead, the film focuses more on what it becomes to become great in one’s passion, and the risk required to develop a relationship with someone who isn’t like you. The director does a great job weaving these two concepts together throughout the story. I definitely recommend this movie to anyone who enjoyed Good Will Hunting. Also, if you are looking for a great movie that you might have missed while it was in the theatres- this is probably one of those.

  3. Review by K. Wyatt for Finding Forrester
    In “Finding Forrester” you can find no better story! Finding Forrester is just a wonderful, melodramatic tale that is told from the heart and is quite uplifting. Sean Connery gives a stunning performance as an agoraphobic man devastated by personal loss. Newcomer Rob Brown’s performance as an extremely intelligent, but held back by his surroundings youth is nothing less than outstanding and Anna Paquin whose performance is right on with her usual high standards.The premise: MINOR SPOILERThe main character played by Rob Brown is an extraordinarily intelligent sixteen year old living in the South Bronx. As a dare, he is challenged to sneak into “the man in the window’s” home and bring something out. Connery scares him out of his home, causing him to leave behind his book bag with all of his stories in it. After critiquing all of his work, Connery drops his book bag down on the street for him to recover. What follows from this point is the development of an unlikely relationship between two people from entirely different worlds. As Connery’s character mentors Brown’s character in his writing and during the young mans transition from an inner city school to a private school and Brown’s character helps to bring Forrester out of his agoraphobic shell. {ssintrepid}

  4. Review by D. Roberts for Finding Forrester
    Here is another well done off-the-mainstream movie that Hollywood decides to surprise us with every so often. It is a film which examines a curious friendship which is forged between a young black youth (Jamal, played by Rob Brown) and an aging, reclusive white author (William Forrester, played by Sean Connery). The movie invokes the directorial talents of Gus Van Sant, and there are a few obvious parallels between it and “Good Will Hunting,” also directed by Van Sant. To SOME extent, Jamal is the liberal arts counterpart to the math/science extraordinaire that Matt Damon played in “Hunting.” However, while he is precocious, Jamal is not quite the “giant among giants” type of genius depicted in Damon’s persona. However, what Jamal is is a young, gifted youth who has a whole lot of potential. The one thing he lacked all his life was intellectual direction. He is well-read, but never had any one to help him hone his writing skills. After stumbling across a one-hit-wonder author (Forrester never attempted to publish a 2nd book), he comes to understand that he has found the catalyst for his future success as a serious writer.This film succeeds brilliantly in its presentation of liberal arts as being an under-used nexus between societies, cultures and socio-economic classes. What keeps coming back again & again throughout the film is just how uniquely human the art of literature is. The fact that Jamal is an athelete as well as a scholar is a refreshing touch, especially considering how most Hollywood movies portray intellectuals as being stereotypical “nerds.” The one factor which precluded my giving this movie 5 stars was its articulation of the relationship between Jamal and Claire. It was obvious that both characters wanted a romance with the other, but the relationship never really went anywhere. By the end of the movie, it seems that the writers forgot about her entirely. Don’t get me wrong: I am not asking for a cheesy love scene, or even a kiss. I would have just liked to know what happened. Claire’s disappearance from the movie was a bit odd, and it left the story incomplete.Other than that aspect, this is a worthwhile DVD to buy. Connery’s performance, as usual, is breath-taking. In fact, his depiction of an aging author made me think of Hemingway in his later years.

  5. Review by Lawyeraau for Finding Forrester
    This is a heartwarming movie with fine performances by Sean Connery, newcomer Rob Brown, F. Murray Abraham, Michael Nouri, and Anna Pacquin. Well directed by Gus Van Sant, the film revolves around the two main characters, William Forrester, played by Sean Connery, and sixteen year old Kamal, played by Rob Brown. William Forrester is a writer who, battling his own inner demons, has remained reclusive after writing a Pulitzer Prize winning novel some forty odd years earlier. Living alone in a changing neighborhood in the Bronx, he makes the acquaintance of Kamal, an intellectually gifted inner city kid, who plays street basketball, loves to write, and does both well.A mentoring relationship springs between the two. Under Forrester’s secret tutorship, Kamal blossoms. When Kamal’s scholastic test scores come to the attention of a local prep school, school officials offer him a scholarship to attend and, if he chooses to do so, play basketball on the school team. The school also turns out to be William Forrester’s alma mater, where he is revered and his prize winning novel is required reading.There, Kamal encounters rank racism, all the more insidious because it is covert. F. Murray Abraham plays a teacher who is very similar to the character, Salieri, whom Abraham portrayed in the film “Amadeus”. A failed writer who became a teacher, Abraham oozes racism as he contrives to destroy Kamal whom he accuses of plagirism, as he clearly believes him to be just another inner city, black basketball player who is incapable of anything more. He cannot seem to fathom that this kid could possibly write as well as he does, because he has Kamal stereotyped.Yet, Kamal is actually all that he puports to be, a gifted writer who just also happens to play basketball. Truly scholarly, he shows up his teacher in class, only to further exacerbate his emnity. This teacher’s dislike and covert racism manifests itself in the exclusion of Kamal’s entry in the prestigious writing competition sponsored by the prep school. This situation comes to a head when the teacher’s racism is exposed for what it is in a stunning, surprising climax. Kamal, however, is not the only one to have a moment of redemption in the movie. Forrester, too, has that moment as he comes to grips with his past, the past that made him shut the world out for so long. It is his friendship with Kamal that illuminates his return to the very world from which he had withdrawn long ago.This film is about a friendship that is borne out of a shared passion. It is about the old nurturing the young. It is about passing the baton from one generation to the next. It is a film the transcends age and race. It is a film for everyone.

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