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Finding Forrester

  finding forrester
Rob Brown tires of Sean Connery's constant declaration: "You're the man now, dawg!"

2001, Columbia
All Rights Reserved

"Finding Forrester" (IMDb listing) is the latest film from Gus Van Sant, director of "Good Will Hunting" and like its predecessor, "Forrester" deals with finding genius where other people refuse to look for it.

Whether or not you like this film will depend upon whether or not you're interested in a retelling of the story from "Hunting." No, it's not exactly the same movie, but if you didn't like "Hunting," you'll probably be better off moving along. Unlike Matt Damon's romp through the academic utopia of Cambridge, MA, "Finding Forrester" deals with the two major subcultures of America's largest city and the uneasy relations between them — rich, white Manhattan. and the poor, black Bronx. We watch the on-screen development of a phenomenal young man, Jamal (Rob Brown), whose academic endeavors take him deep into a society that variably views him with smug indignation, wary apprehension, and perhaps worst of all, as a commodity to be exploited for the purposes of prestige.

As a middle class minority who has found herself in the bastion of the privileged WASP culture, I found the film's portrayal of these aspects of life to be dead on. As weird as the Park Avenue set is to me, I could hardly fathom the awkwardness and tension experienced by someone in Jamal's position. I was impressed by Rob Brown's portrayal of his character, letting us see his frustration but balancing it against a very quiet and reserved strength, brought to life with a mastery that surprised me when I discovered that this was Brown's very first venture into acting. I was relieved to find that the issues of race and class relations were dealt with in a manner that was both realistic and delicate. Let's face it, there aren't a whole lot of out-and-out neo-nazi racists hanging about anymore. Racism and prejudice have evolved into the subtler, but nonetheless venomous, forms such as preconceptions about 'other' people that we quietly hold on to. Yeah, the movie's got a bad guy, but thanks to characters like Anna Paquin's ("The Piano") Claire, the idea that rich white people are all bad was never rammed down my throat. Instead of seeing the championing of one side in an antagonistic battle, I saw people of two cultures struggling to understand one another and overcome their prejudices in the larger context of trying to understand people for who they are, not whom you think they are. However, For its realistic contextualization, I do think that the film chickened out on plenty of opportunities to break real ground. As far as interracial dating is concerned, the film skirted the issues and generally wussed out.

The entire cast put forward admirable performances. Rob Brown portrays Jamal with a maturity beyond his years. I felt that Connery in his taciturn and sometimes acerbic role as Jamal's mentor was worth mentioning, if for no other reason than hearing Connery, in true 70-year-old Scottish curmudgeon style, proclaim, "You're the man now, dog!" Connery's laconic J.D. Salinger-esque writer-who-wrote-the-perfect-novel-then retired-to-anonymity didn't exactly break new ground. However, I found him to be infinitely less annoying than sappy and hyper-emotional Robin Williams in his "Hunting" role.

I'm of the opinion that "Finding Forrester" suffers from categorical predictability. The good guys were really good, the bad guys were clearly bad — there was none of that complexity or ambiguity in the characters. The less-than-superb screenplay has plenty of contrite moments, and if Connery isn't exactly convincing as the world's greatest living writer, maybe it's because of the material with which he had to work. At least the writers and the filmmakers recognized this shortcoming and didn't make us sit through long monologues of characters reading from this living legend's work.

"Finding Forrester" is an enjoyable, "feel good" film that's marked by Brown's strong performance. Certainly, it's predictable, but I found enough to relate to in "Forrester" to make it worthwhile.

Filmfodder Grade: B-



Put the dawg on your wall with a Finding Forrester poster.







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