I had always meant to see "Finding Forrester" in the theaters, but never got a chance to - yet, the picture was almost inescapable. Locally, posters seemed to be everywhere and the television spot featuring Sean Connery bellowing the line, "You're the man now, dog!" seemed to be on constant rotation. Now that I've sat down to watch the film, I wish that I'd taken the time to see it when it was in theaters last Christmas.
The film stars newcomer Rob Brown as Jamal Wallace, an African American youth from the inner city whose excellent test scores and great basketball playing earns him a scholarship to a prep school in the city. One night, after a dare from his friends, Jamal sneaks into the apartment of a lonely man that lives above their basketball court. It turns out that the man is William Forrester (Sean Connery) an author who formerly wrote "the great American novel", but hasn't done anything since, remaining a recluse.
The two become friends - at first, both are reluctant to work with one another, but they're each aiding one another in a way - Forrester warms up and becomes less irritable, and Jamal gets someone to help take him from simply a good writer to someone who could be a great one. Several sub-plots work their way into the proceedings, including a romance between Jamal and a student played by Anna Paquin and accusations by Jamal's teacher of plagarism.
The best moments of the movie are easily between Brown and Connery. The two actors work wonderfully together, and as it's Brown's first performance, it's an impressive one. Writing (much like golf) is not exactly the most cinematic thing in the world, but the two carry it through, and make their scenes engaging and often entertaining.
Some have called the film a sequel-of-sorts to director Gus Van Sant's other recent feature "Good Will Hunting" ("Hunting" star Matt Damon makes a cameo) and although they are similar in a few ways, the film is somewhat different in tone and feel - and, if comparing the two, this one does not manage to be as successful. Again, the central relationship between Jamal and Forrester is excellently written, but supporting characters around the two seem rather thinly written. The film as a whole also doesn't seem to quite be able to support its over 2 hour running time, and as a result, there are periods of the film that begin to feel slow.
Anna Paquin has some fine scenes with Rob Brown during the early half of the movie, then we really don't hear a great deal from her character as the movie goes on. F. Murray Abraham plays Jamal's English teacher - the film apparently needed a "bad guy" and he's it, but I can't say that he does a particularly good job at it, remaining a one-dimensional and irritating character. Rapper Busta Rhymes does contribute a good, small supporting performance as Jamal's brother.
Overall, I found "Forrester" an enjoyable movie that wraps up well, but with some faults that took away from it. It was good - but a few touches here and there and some light editing could have made it a stronger, more engaging and entertaining effort. Nothing groundbreaking, but still worth a look.
VIDEO: Although "Forrester" may not be the most visually stunning film, Columbia/Tristar still has done a strong job with this anamorphic transfer, presenting the film in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. With the exception of a couple of darker scenes that appeared murky and soft, sharpness looked very good and occasionally even great during the bright, outdoor scenes on the New York City streets that served as the locations from the movie. During these scenes, there was often also a nice depth to the image.
Flaws were thankfully almost completely absent. Print flaws were not to be found throughout the movie - I didn't even notice any light speckles or slight marks. I did notice a very slight instance or two of pixelation, but these were certainly not distracting, and there were not other flaws to contend with.
The film isn't terribly colorful (and seems to have more than its fare share of outdoor scenes with overcast skies), and mainly keeps towards a rather subdued, natural set of colors. The best way to discribe the visual look that is attempted by cinematographer Harris Savides and director Gus Van Sant is one without exaggeration - keeping things relatively realistic (although one sunset-lit scene in the apartment reminded me of Jean Yves-Escoffier's cinematography from "Good Will Hunting"), from the dim scenes of Forrester's apartment to the warmly lit scenes of the streets. Again, although the film is not the most visually remarkable, Tristar's presentation is a very fine effort that shows the film with only a few very minor flaws.
SOUND: As one would expect from the film, there's really no audio "fireworks" to be found throughout "Finding Forrester". Some scenes take place in the streets, where slight ambient sounds are heard, but these remain very minor. A scene at a basketball game towards the end of the film is really one of the one or two that open up beyond being dialogue-driven, if not largely so. Many of the film's scenes take place inside rooms, whether it be Forrester's house or the classroom, and are purely dialogue-driven.
The occasional rap music and Bill Frisell's occasional, rather odd score provide a slight backing to the proceedings, although I was happy to find that many of the better scenes of the film with the actors providing dialogue allows them to do their best and have their words alone without any music in the background to try to add to the emotions or mood. Dialogue (even Connery's accent, which is in full effect here), remains especially clear and easily understood.
MENUS:: Tristar provides a slightly animated main menu, where scenes from the film play out in the background, as non-animated film-themed stay still in the front.
HBO First Look: Finding Forrester: A 15 minute promotional documentary, much of this feature offers interviews chatting about the story or clips from the movie, similar to many of the documentaries that are found on DVD releases. Yet, after a little while, some bits of information and insight from the cast and crew about the making of the film and the story do come into play, and make for some mildly interesting viewing. At the end of it all, HBO's "First Look" for "Finding Forrester" turns out to be better than the usual "promotional" programs.
Found: Rob Brown: Slightly under 12 minutes, this documentary focuses on Rob Brown, the first time performer who found himself acting against Sean Connery for his debut performance. Director Gus Van Sant and other members of the crew talk about the casting process and finding a newcomer for such a major role. Brown himself also talks in-depth about his feelings taking on the role and making the film.
Deleted Choir Scenes: 2 deleted scenes featuring the Dewitt-Clinton High School Chorus: "Lacrymosa" and "Lean On Me".
Theatrical Trailers: Trailers for "Finding Forrester", "Fly Away Home", "First Knight" and "To Die For".
Final Thoughts: "Finding Forrester" is not without a few minor faults that I thought took away from the overall film, but both Connery and newcomer Rob Brown still do a fine job carrying the picture. Although Tristar's DVD doesn't offer much in the way of extra features, audio/video quality is still satisfactory. Recommended.