Finding Forrester (2000) — You’re the man now, dog

“Bolt the door, if you’re coming in.”

Justin’s rating: Oh, t’were I a glove upon that hand, that I may give that’st cheek a darn good slappin’

Justin’s review: There’s nothing is incredibly new or original in Finding Forrester, since the story of a high school kid and his newfound mentor conjures up shades of Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting (which also was directed by Forrester’s Gus Van Sant). Jamal (Rob Brown) is a poor, basketball-enthused high school student with a hidden passion for writing. Due to a series of patented Movie Coincidences ™, he stumbles on the hideout of one William Forrester (Sean Connery), a famous novelist who went into hiding years ago. The two naturally battle it out to the death, with Connery picking his teeth with Brown’s bones (“Loshers alwaysh whine about their besht…”).

Ah, heck with it, they become friends. Forrester helps to cultivate Jamal’s writing skills, while the youngster helps his elder overcome his fear of public places. It’s heartwarming and touching, just like a good episode of Webster and its infamous “awwwwwww” sound track. Jamal is pretty stupid for a high school student and makes just enough mistakes (such as, oh, plagiarizing and lying to his teachers) to put him in a crisis that must be resolved by the end of the film.

Now, I’m going to reveal what happens towards the end, because it’s important to understand why a fairly decent drama torpedoes itself dead in the water. And hey, they even showed part of it in the trailers and commercials, so no big spoilers here. Forrester comes out of hiding to stick up for his friend at school, where Jamal’s just about to be expelled. To save Jamal’s hide, Forrester gets in front of the class and teacher F. Murray Abraham (I’m convinced the “F” stands for “Fearsomely Big Nose”) and proceeds to read a highly eloquent and wonderfully moving essay. Of course the essay was written by Jamal, but the class assumes it’s Forrester’s work and therefore listens with bated breath. This is all fine and ducky, except for the fact that we never really HEAR the essay.

That’s right. An entire movie about writing, about the power of words, and when the big climax comes up involving an essay meant to devastate the very Stronghold of Shakespeare… they blast up the score and don’t let you hear it. Forrester maybe says two lines before the soundtrack blares up like at a presidential funeral, and we’re whisked away to the land of sweeping montages. Sure, Forrester is still reading, but we can’t hear a darn thing he’s saying because of the EXTREMELY LOUD SCORE.

I talked to a friend of mine who saw this film, and she even brought up a gripe about this scene, since it’s so very, very stupid. What were the filmmakers thinking? Maybe the writers weren’t up to the task of producing an essay to inspire the audiences, so the director said “forget it,” turned the music dial to “10,” and hoped that the sheep-like moviegoers would envision something grand and dramatic taking place and baaa contentedly. The only other explanation I can come up with is that the music is actually Connery humming, because the essay is just that bad.

Let’s see, what else would this ending be akin to… hmmm… how about focusing on C3P0’s facial reactions during the entire Death Star attack during Star Wars? Or have a color commentator talk over every musical performance in Shine (“Wow, Bill, he’s really hitting those keys hard tonight!”)? Or maybe just throwing up some subtitles on a black screen to describe the bullet-time sequences in The Matrix? With this sort of ham-handed ending, Finding Forrester essentially negates one of its key messages, so we end up with the moral of: “Words are good, except when people are reading them on screen, in which case loud music is much better and will probably fool people into thinking that this rehashed flick is a deep existential experience.”

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