Unhappy with the roles being offered them, lifelong friends and talented actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon spent five years developing the script for Good Will Hunting, and attracted enough attention to snare Gus Van Sant as a director and Robin Williams and Minnie Driver as co-stars. With all those elements in place, the only-okay quality of the final product is something of a disappointment. Damon plays the title character, a street-fighting, working-class Boston kid who also happens to be a self-taught genius, unparalleled in his ability to solve high-level mathematics. (It's to Damon's credit as an actor that this comes off as fairly believable.) After being discovered by MIT professor Stellan Skarsgård and running afoul of the law one too many times, Damon is paroled on the condition that he seek therapy, a demand that eventually brings him to Williams' office. While well-intentioned and well-played by all, Good Will Hunting eventually succumbs to an inescapable sense of go-nowhereness. The same issues are raised time and again, and for every effective scene—it's clear that Affleck and Damon do have talent as writers—there's an extended, unbelievable monologue or some other contrivance. Van Sant's direction is also surprisingly static and conventional, which doesn't help this earnest, underwhelming misfire.
More from The A.V. Club