As I continue this subset of posts about friendships from the movies, I present examples from a thought-provoking, emotionally charged, and powerful motion picture Good Will Hunting. The film has an on-screen friendship, along with a real-life friendship, both based on the theme that every man needs good friends who help make them better, even when you carry around baggage from your past.
About Good Will Hunting
This critically-acclaimed 1997 film follows Will Hunting (played by Matt Damon), a 20-year-old janitor in South Boston who’s forced to see a therapist, Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) after assaulting a police officer. The movie shows how these friends help make each other better men.
Will Hunting, an unrecognized genius who’s faced years of abuse and foster homes, soon finds that, through his therapy sessions with Dr. Maguire, he’s re-evaluating himself and his relationships with his best friend, Chuckie Sullivan (Ben Affleck). He also examines the relationship with his girlfriend, Skylar (Minnie Driver). In doing so, Will faces the significant task of confronting his past and thinking about his future.
The film received positive reviews from critics and grossed over $225 million during its theatrical run against a $10 million budget. At the 70th Academy Awards, it received nominations in nine categories, including Best Picture and Best Director. Co-writers, Matt Daman and Ben Affleck won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and Robin Williams won for Best Supporting Actor. In 2014, the film was ranked #53 on The Hollywood Reporter’s “100 Favorite Films” list.
The Friendship Plots
In the movie, Will Hunting and Dr. Sean Maguire develop a thought-provoking, emotionally charged, and powerful friendship. The two surprise each other each step of the way – reluctant to expose themselves emotionally, yet finding it inevitable. Their friendship may be the foundation of the film. It shows friends help make each other better since each opens up about their past.
But the bond shared by Damon’s Will and Affleck’s Chuckie is wholly authentic. They seem like a couple of fun guys from the neighborhood. Will is the prodigious child of a working-class family who was meant to do more. Chuckie is the homebody who is satisfied with his life and wants nothing more than to see his gifted friend soar.
Their friendship has all the surface-level aspects (the drinking, the ball-busting, etc.) but they are just two guys that care about each other. Chuckie challenges Will over his resistance to take any of the positions in which he interviews. Will owes it to Chuckie to make the most of the opportunities they will never have, even if it means leaving one day.
Chuckie’s relationship with Will is summed up by one quote: “Look, you’re my best friend, so don’t take this the wrong way. But in 20 years, if you’re still livin’ here, comin’ over to my house, watchin’ the Patriots games, workin’ construction, I’ll f*ckin’ kill ya. That’s not a threat; that’s a fact. I’ll f*ckin’ kill ya.”
Close friends know when to use tough love!
Close Friends Make You Better
Will Hunting’s character emphasizes the emotions of anger, violence, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that are a result of his abuse as a child. Dr. Maguire helps Will to see that he is a victim of his own inner demons and to accept that it is not his fault, causing him to break down in tears. In one memorable scene, Will has a breakthrough moment in therapy when Maguire utters the words “It’s not your fault” over and over until Will breaks down crying. Throughout his life, he has pushed people away because he’s been afraid that they’ll hurt him emotionally if he lets them get too close.
Later, Chuckie goes to Will’s house to pick him up, only to find that he is not there, much to his happiness. Will sends Dr. Maguire a letter telling him to inform Professor Lambeau that he had to go “see about a girl,” and will pass on the job offer since he is heading to California to reunite with Skylar. On a symbolic level, the movie tells us that Will finally embraces the uncertainties of life and put his heart on the line to be with someone he loves.
Sometimes you need a friend who makes you look back into your past to shape your future. Sometimes your best friend, like Chuckie, needs to frame things a little differently and apply some tough love. In either case, friends don’t allow each other’s talent and potential to go to waste. These are good friends who help make each other better.
What Makes These Friendships Unique
Becoming the person your best friend sees in you also plays out in the real lives of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.
Their “bromance” started in 1980 and is one of the longest-running friendships in Hollywood. According to a 2007 interview for Parade magazine, Affleck first met Damon in the early 1980s when they were 8 and 10, respectively. The two lived two blocks away from each other in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and instantly hit it off, bonding over their shared loves of sports and acting. Both went on to attend Cambridge Rindge and Latin high school. Both actors had a few minor credits under their belts when they worked as extras in the Fenway Park scene of “Field of Dreams.”
Damon and Affleck’s first big movie roles together came in 1992 with the film “School Ties” in which Damon had a lead role and Affleck had a supporting part. In their next film together, “Glory Daze,” Affleck starred as the main character, and Damon appeared in a minor role. Affleck once said that after the two got paid for “School Ties,” they thought they were rich and “blew it all in a couple of months” but rented a house in LA’s Eagle Rock neighborhood where they reportedly wrote the screenplay for “Good Will Hunting.” Affleck and Damon were immediately thrust into stardom, making them household names.
Friends Have Each Other’s Backs
While Matt Damon has been no stranger to controversy over the course of his career, he attributes much of his success and fame to Affleck and speaks about how nice it was to have his friend by his side while the two were struggling actors. “I certainly wouldn’t be here were it not for him,” Damon said.
Ben Affleck’s personal life has smattered the tabloids. Through his public struggles with substance abuse and divorce from long-time wife, Jennifer Garner to his on-again-off-again relationship with Jennifer Lopez, he has leaned on Damon often. Matt has consistently maintained a posture of positivity and happiness in his life. He also came to the rescue and convinced Ben to leave the role of Batman to avoid burnout. Affleck once told The Hollywood Reporter that “in fact, I talked to [Matt Damon] about it and [he] was the main influence on that decision. I want to do the things that would bring me joy.”
Damon, married since 2005 to Argentine-born Luciana Barroso, has four daughters. He and Ben are often seen together, even double-dating at times. Both are known for their acting work but are also screenwriters and producers. Damon and Affleck collaborated on another film, The Last Duel directed by Ridley Scott; the first time working together since Good Will Hunting. They recently announced another new project together, a film that explores how Nike secured a partnership with Michael Jordan in the ‘80s that became one of the most significant moments in sports marketing.
My original post for this series, New Year; New Types of Friends outlined the different archetypes of friends every man needs. The list for a man’s “inner circle” should include a Mentor, a Wingman/Bachelor, a Handyman, a Fitness Buff, and a Work Pal. If you have read along with my blog for a while, you should not be surprised that I included a sixth type: The GodBuddy which are deeper, more authentic friends than those most men include.
In this way, the on-screen characters in Good Will Hunting and the real-life friendship of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck demonstrate several of these archetypes: Wingman/Bachelor, Work Pal, and the Childhood Buddy (OK, that one was not on my original list but it could be if you both grow together). GodBuddies also help you live up to the expectations of people around you. They want what’s best for you and by helping you grow spiritually.
For that reason, I believe every man needs GodBuddies who help them look into their past and envision a future that brings out the best in them. They raise you up to God’s higher levels; not drag you back down into boyish behaviors (1 Corinthians 13:11). GodBuddies make you a better man and a better friend.
Do you have good friends who help make you better?
My next post is an example of two friends who love to have fun together.