A movie should not only be judged on whether it is predictable or not. While there is a natural attraction to stories that keep you guessing, there is an art to telling a compelling story in the face of an inevitable conclusion. Gus Van Sant’s (Good Will Hunting) 2000 drama Finding Forrester is a good example of a crowd pleasing story that offers little in the way of big surprises, but nonetheless delivers an emotionally resonant experience. Reflecting back upon this feature, it almost feels like a relic of a different time. This is not due to the content of the story, but rather the dramatic decline in studios releasing mid-budget adult dramas. Yet, when you see an actor such as Sean Connery delivering one of his strongest late-career performances, you start to see what the cinematic landscape has been lacking in the past decade. The film was a decent-sized hit at the box office, but it deserves more recognition for what an entertaining tale it is.
Newcomer Rob Brown (Blindspot) made quite the impression in his debut film as young Jamal Wallace, a gifted student who downplays his intelligence to fit in better in his community of friends. He is the type of student who does just enough to get by in his school work while devoting his time to playing basketball. Jamal and his friends are watched over by a man they cryptically refer to as “the window” due to the neighborhood lore that has built up over the years about the man who never leaves his apartment but is often seen watching out his window. Jamal comes face-to-face with “the window” during a dare gone wrong, but who Jamal finds is not the terrifying-sounding man that has been spoken about in hushed whispers. Jamal eventually finds out that this man is none other than Salinger-esque famed author William Forrester (Sean Connery), who through a series of events strikes up a mentorship over Jamal after coming across some of his writing. This almost sounds like a “white savior” film, but in actuality the two need each other equally.
At the same time, Jamal’s promise is brought to the school’s attention through his impeccable test scores, which leads him to attending the prestigious Manhattan private school Mailor-Callow where he will be able to show off his academics and basketball skills. Much of the drama comes from Jamal’s struggle with fitting into his new environment while trying not to leave behind his old life completely. His belief is that achieving success may not be worth it if you have to lose what makes you who you are, which is something powerful to consider. His feelings are further complicated by two key figures at his new school. First is his new classmate Claire (Anna Paquin, X-Men franchise), who he befriends and is drawn closer to throughout his time there. The other is his English professor Robert Crawford (F. Murray Abraham, Amadeus), a failed novelist turned teacher who is dubious of Jamal when his writing starts rapidly improving. Jamal has to decide if he is willing to prove himself as worthy of being at the school when others are given the benefit of the doubt.
The dynamic between William and Jamal is the heart and soul of the film, and outside of a few cringeworthy moments (“You’re the man now, dog”) the script handles it with grace. Jamal has a baseline talent that he is hiding behind his pride, but William pushes him to not stand in his own way. William on the other hand has a crippling agoraphobia that has kept William from connecting with another person in a long time, but Jamal inspires him to take his own advice and push beyond his comfort zone. Connery is one of the greatest actors of all time, and it does the heart well to see him filled with such warmth and playfulness in this role, although he also handles the emotional moments with ease. The main criticism I would put forth in regards to this film is the fact that it is overly long for the type of story it is attempting to tell. This film easily could have been under two hours and been a much tighter experience. Nevertheless, Gus Van Sant delivered a worthy follow-up to Good Will Hunting after his misguided remake of Psycho. Bring back the mid-budget adult drama, Hollywood!
Finding Forrester gets a pleasing upgrade on Blu-Ray courtesy of Mill Creek Entertainment with a 1080p master in the original aspect ratio. The transfer does not seem to be a new, polished-up master, but the basic high definition transfer provides natural film grain with only the occasional specks of damage or subtle digital anomalies. This disc is strong despite the age of the transfer. This is a film that exudes a warm color palette which this transfer shows off quite well with a nice, realistic look to it. Skin tones look natural, and the presentation offers up some fairly deep black levels. The disc shows off some excellent details in most instances, but there are moments of softness present in some shots. Mill Creek Entertainment has provided an enjoyable transfer for a film that has been missing in action on a proper pressed Blu-Ray.
The Blu-Ray comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that does the trick without being too showy. Dialogue is the main driving force of the film, and there are never any issues with clarity or voices being overwhelmed by competing elements. Surround speakers get a decent workout from some engaging panning effects and ambient environmental sounds. There are several instances of people calling from off screen during basketball games that are effectively positioned. The score of the movie almost feels like another character at times, and it stands out quite beautifully here with this well balanced mix. Activity in the low end is very sporadic with only occasional bursts of activity. This movie is not an all-out audio heavy hitter, but it is perfectly pleasing for the type of movie you are watching. Optional English subtitles are available.
- Deleted Scene: A 3-minute unused scene is provided here depicting a school choir singing a beautiful rendition of a classic piece. This is presented in standard definition.
- HBO Making Of – Finding Forrester: A 15-minute piece in which the cast and crew discuss the film in a promotional manner. There are not many deep insights about the story or the production process, but it is nice to hear these creative figures speak on their involvement.
- Found – Rob Brown: A 12-minute piece which delves into the journey to finding the right performer to inhabit the lead character in the film.
Finding Forrester is a really lovely film that holds up despite a few dated concepts. Sean Connery is quite wonderful in the title role, but proper credit should be given to Rob Brown for deftly handling a role that requires a bit of nuance that he pulls off well. While not Oscar-level material, the film is a rock solid drama that will make you feel better by the end. Mill Creek Entertainment has done a nice job with the budget-friendly Blu-Ray release which sports a solid A/V presentation and even a couple of special features. If you are a fan of the film, there is no reason to pass up this upgrade. Recommended
Finding Forrester is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Mill Creek Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.