I'm sure most of you have a good idea of how Finding Forrester pans out, even if you haven't seen the movie yet: reclusive writer meets street smart, socially downtrodden boy prodigy, and the two discover they have a lot to learn from one another. As formulaic as that may sound, the story's progression is even more textbook. Like Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester centers around a student/teacher relationship. The movie also has elements of Scent of a Woman in that it focuses on two generations (Connery's old recluse and Brown's teenaged basketball player) teaching each other about life and what it means to live.
But despite the fact that most seasoned moviegoers can predict Finding Forrester from beginning to end with the greatest of ease, the movie remains a delight thanks to its first rate performances. Sean Connery is a joy to watch as the xenophobic writer William Forrester, an interesting character full of eccentricities and history. Robert Brown plays his character of Jamal Wallace with such normalcy--an everyday kid who just happens to be blessed with a gift for words--that he carries the believability of the entire movie. Anna Paquin contributes greatly to rounding out Jamal as his love interest, and looks so cute (the fact that her mouth almost never closes, even when she's not talking, seems to add to her innocent look). And F. Murray Abraham, as the "evil" Professor Crawford, is a perfectly hissable adversary.
The chemistry between Forrester and Jamal is excellent, and both characters are fleshed out and interesting. Forrester is particularly compelling because he begins the movie as a bit of an enigma--a creepy old man holed away in a life of absolute solitude--who we learn about slowly over the course of the movie. When all is said and done, we learn that he is a man not unlike any other, who has human flaws of his own. The gradual discovery of the character proves to be one of the greatest rewards of the film.
Less developed is the story surrounding Anna Paquin's character. We are introduced to a possible storyline involving her father's subtle disapproval of her relationship with Jamal, but it's unfortunately dropped, presumably because time would not permit. While it's not completely necessary, such a development may have served to emphasize Jamal's hardships more effectively than the short speech his brother (played by rapper Busta Rhymes) makes to Connery.
Busta Rhymes and Sean Connery add a good deal of levity to the story when it's needed, making certain that the movie keeps a sense of humor. Connery in particular can be surprisingly funny, although I could have done without him saying, "You're the man now, dog!" (My editor, who does a passable impression of SNL's Darrell Hammond impersonating Connery, won't shut up with this silly line.)
Finding Forrester has been criticized for being too much like other recent movies, and some of that criticism may be well deserved. But on the positive side, it's mimicking good movies with a good cast, so all things considered, it could have been a lot worse. Anyone who enjoyed the films I mentioned above should check out Finding Forrester without hesitation.
Rating: 7 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)