on 2 October 2001
Finding Forrester is one of those movies that comes along every now and then. It seemed to arrive without much fanfare and I wonder why. Why is something this good not given a big promotional tour, lots of publicity and a lot of glitz? The truth is - it doesn't need it. What a film needs is a great script, tight direction, excellent leads and "something". The "something" in this film is the spark between Forrester and Jamal. It's the rancour between Jamal and the teacher (played exquisitely by F Murray Abraham). And, it's the fledgling friendship between a girl and a boy.
Quite simply it's a wonder. Sean Connery turns in another seemingly effortless performance. (I'm biased, as I'm from Edinburgh, but I think it's the best thing he's done since "The Man Who Would be King".) Rob Brown (as Jamal) isn't dwarfed by Connery's performance and turns in something eyecatching himself. F Murray Abraham, always worth watching, gives us plenty to dislike as Jamal's snobbish teacher. Anna Paquin fared well as Jamal's school friend - but this could have been expanded on a bit more.
However, don't just read this review. Watch the film. You won't regret it.
Although he did another one or two films before his formal retirement, this is as good a swan song as the splendid old so-and-so deserves. Playing a character based so obviously on J D Salinger he even has the same number of syllables in his name(!) but it's all good fun - to the extent that the film really only seems to move forward when Connery is on screen.
But...it's all a bit too contrived for my taste, to many Hollywood coincidences in the script - plus Van Sant had only directed Good Will Hunting a few years earlier and this film suffers (as most would) by comparison to that. It's the sense of going back to the well one time to many.
Major gripe - the story goes on too long (SPOILER SPOLIER SPOILER!)and there's no need really to have most of the scenes after the death of Forrester - the end shot in my mind always comes back to Forrester cycling off through the heavy daytime city traffic, in his suit and coat, completely out of place but enjoying the world again.
To me, it's better that a million `Shaken, not stirred' clips in giving us a fond farewell to Mr Connery. May his tartan retirement be restful..
on 10 December 2009
This film is a lot more than the story of a black boy from the Bronx finding his full realization in both basket-ball and creative writing. This film is a lot more than the skimming of black public high schools by white private high school to find the winning sportsmen they need. This film is a lot more than the story of a black teenager who finds his mentor, a father substitute since he has no father and his elder brother is not the model he wants, in a famous and yet totally marginal writer, Scottish by origin and bird-loving by choice and passion. This film is a lot more than the exacting tyrant a failed writer can become when he decides to compensate his failure in writing by becoming a creative writing and literature teacher. And this film is also a lot more than the phenomenal emotional shock it is for an aging man, diagnosed with cancer, entirely solitary and marginalized to find by accident and the insistence on the side of the foundling, the younger man who is going to be his follow-up next generation. He gets out of his cocoon. He gets out of his seclusion. Even so much that he will save his foundling from academic probation and even open up the door to his future. This film is all that together and a lot more. It is the story of loyalty, commitment and yet betrayal and salvation. Deeply emotional all along the film gets to a poignant ending when the death of the older man is announced by a lawyer to the younger man, and when this younger man is given the full legacy of the older man: the keys to the older man's den and sanctuary in the Bronx, a final farewell manuscript letter and the manuscript of his second and posthumous novel to be prefaced by the younger man. The racial problem is dealt with delicately but thoroughly showing how little race has to do with creative imagination, or even plain human love, but also that it has a lot to do with some preconceived ideas that a black basket ball player cannot be a creative writer of any excellence. A film to watch several times just for fun and emotional inspiration. You can always trace and track all the visual or situational allusions to many other films, like Matt Damon as a young lawyer. I have seen that somewhere else. Solve the many riddles of the type like the older man on his old fashioned bike cycling to the private school to save his black younger friend from ostracism and rejection. He just misses a black gown flying around him.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Vincennes Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Val de Marne Créteil, CEGID.
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 plagiarism, 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 purports 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 enmity. 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.
on 26 June 2010
This is an excellent, thought provoking film. For those who appreciate clean drama it is a good watch. Sean Connery gave an excellent performance; inspiring a black afro-american boy to reach his full academic potential, much to the disappointment of his teachers (sic) who never saw beyond his athlectic ability. Is this the prevalent prejudicial experience of young black boys and even girls in the education system? If so the positive experience of teachers who inspire those to be the best they can be is what makes this film such an interesting watch. Never tired of watching this film.
on 14 January 2005
Having taught a few decades ago in the South Bronx, I found the setting and kids portrayed in FINDING FORRESTER refreshingly believable. I was getting to think that Hollywood could only find thugs and drug addicts among its usual stereotypes of poor black kids living in such areas. So it was refreshing and even encouraging to be treated to a story with top actors, led by one of its action-adventure, senior sex symbols Sean Connery, as the titled recluse novelist Forrester.
The celebrated F. Murray Abraham did a creditable job portraying the nemesis of the central character Jamal played by, who years ago would have been called a "natural actor," Rob Brown. By now, most people reading this must known the plot: basketball superstar ghetto teenager is discovered to be a literary genius who struggles with his identity while being given the chance to succeed on a scholarship at a prestigious private high school.
The budding teen writer meets a hermit novelist buried away in his 'hood, and the two become friends and literary soul mates. I liked the story and the acting for the most part. Connery and Brown were a marvelous team. However, much as I like Abraham as an actor it seemed to me he played the personality of his villain (Jamal's English composition teacher who tries to get him expelled by proving the kid's brilliant essays were all plagiarized writing) a bit too much like Salieri in AMADEUS. Maybe, had I not seen the Mozart movie this would not have irritated me so much. Nevertheless, I can't hold that against the movie.
Uplifting, realistic fantasies, avoiding stereotypes and not challenging common sense have become such a rarity these days that five stars is a fair rating for this thoroughly enjoyable movie. I'll bet teenagers like it too.