Finding Forrester [VHS] 
Talented basketball player Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown) has dreams of becoming a successful writer, and finds help in the form of William Forrester (Sean Connery), a reclusive novelist who lives in his neighbourhood. The pair meet when Jamal breaks into Forrester's flat, but a warm student-teacher bond soon develops between them, with Forrester helping Jamal improve his writing and Jamal helping Forrester overcome his reclusiveness. However, when Jamal rewrites a piece of his new friend's work for a school assignment, his vindictive professor Robert Crawford (F. Murray Abraham) accuses him of plagiarism, a charge which could seriously effect his school career.
Finding Forrester is a very accomplished example of the sentimental melodrama that Gus Von Sant has made his own--issues like integrity and snobbery are presented with just enough simplification to the set pieces that no-one feels challenged. Brilliant baseball player Jamal gets the chance to move from a sink school in the Bronx to a private academy where his real intellectual and artistic talent will be nurtured along with his sporting skills. This is an American film about class and race, but one that makes the real issue Jamal's unsuspecting need to defend himself against accusations of plagiarism. His artistic mentor is a reclusive novelist, whose whereabouts he keeps secret even when he stands to lose everything. Rob Brown is extraordinary as the boy, conveying the sensitivity, genius, obstinacy and physicality of a character written as a paragon; Sean Connery turns in a predictably fine performance as Forrester, using his authority to make the part credible; F Murray Abrahams is, as always, an effective villain--he brings an observed creepy snobbery to the film; Anna Paquin makes a good impression in the minor part of Jamal's white schoolfellow and supporter.
On the DVD: The disc includes two powerful deleted scenes of school choirs, a "making-of" documentary and a short film about the auditions process which found Rob Brown. It has fine sound--Dolby Digital 5.1--that brings out the film's jazz score perfectly. The anamorphic 2.35:1 aspect ratio, enhanced for 16:9 TVs, looks just fine. --Roz Kaveny --This text refers to the DVD edition.
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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.
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.
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