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Click above to purchase "Finding Forrester" at amazon.com

 

Finding Forrester

review by Zach B.

Rated PG-13

Studio: Columbia/Tri-Star

Running Time: 136 minutes

Starring Sean Connery, Rob Brown, F. Murrary Abraham, Anna Paquin and Busta Rhymes

Written by Mike Rich

Directed by Gus Van Sant

Retail Price: $24.98

Features: HBO Making Of featurette, Found: Rob Brown featurette, Deleted Choir Scenes, Filmographies, Keep Case Insert Production Notes, Theatrical Trailers

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Chapter Search (28 Chapters)

I can never resist a school movie. Okay, so I can resist some - basically a good amount of teen movies, but not all of them. But the movies that aren't always teen films, more so about high school than getting down someone's pants, about beating the odds, inspiration, characters coming together and so forth, all without being cheesy, I just really, really enjoy them. I relate to them to some extent and they really appeal to me. And for some reason, I usually get a lot out of them.

Jammal Wallace is a sixteen year old student who does satisfactory class work but has really impressive test scores. Jammal's passion is basketball, but his other passion, more of a secret one, is writing. Jammal is one fantastic writer. So since Jammal's scores are so impressive, an elite private school recuirts him... but they also want him for basketball. In this story comes the secluded and incredibly isolated William Forrester. Forrester only wrote one novel, one award winning. Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by the name of "Avalon Landing". The two meet when Jammal's friends dare to him sneak into a mysterious apartment. They don't even know who exactly is in the apartment, and it's sort of like an urban legend. The apartment is of Forrester's. Jammal gets in, sneaks around and is then is scared off by Forrester. Jammal left his backpack there, and soon enough, it comes flying down from "The Window". All of Jammal's writings are corrected and critiqued by Forrester. The two are a bit uneasy at first, but form an unlikely bond as the private Forrester intimidates Jammal but they soon gain a mutual respect for one another. Jammal opens up to Forrester, and then Jammal discovers who this mysterious stranger he's been visiting often is. The person is the famous novelist... William Forrester (sorry if I made it any of this sound confusing). And he's quite impressed. In the mean time, Jammal is trying to juggle himself as a person, as he is excepted into the private school. Jammal's English teacher by the named of Crawford picks on him greatly, and he feels some tension from his fellow peers who come from very rich families. Jammal is basically a fish out of water in this case, and there's also tension from his intense basketball playing. Forrester, on the other hand, slowly begins to open to Jammal. Again, Forrester is very isolated, who doesn't answer his phone and even refuses to step out of his apartment and has other people do his shopping for him. However, two people, who are a bit different, come together and learn about life from one another as Forrester shows Jammal his true passion and helps discover who he is, and Jammal brings Forrester into the outside world and shows him that life isn't so bad and that the world isn't so terrible. Each man is connected by an important thing (and I won't spoil it here). However in spite of everything, matters get worse when Crawford is really giving him hell about his writing, which he thinks is "too good". Perhaps he is jealous, but more perhaps is that he can't believe someone "like" Jammal is capable of having a strong talent. But there is something within this, something interested indeed. I don't want to give anymore away, but there's a tremendous amount to this movie and a whole lot more unravels. It's packed with some good surprises, good scenes and a good spirit throughout. You probably won't be disappointed. The storytelling is really well done.

I really wanted to see this movie in theaters, but I missed it. The film did earn some very nice reviews, and opened in December 2000 (it went wider during January 2001) in hopes of scoring some major award nominations. Unfortuantly, "Finding Forrester" found nothing with awards, and grossed a respectable fifty million at the box office. Finally, after seeing it, I found "Finding Forrester" to be really well made, as it did break the mold in some ways.

Mike Rich's script creates some very interesting characters and makes some interesting points about races and people from different sides of the track. Jammal feels a bit uneasy about this when he goes to his new school, and he feels a bit uneasy with his new good friend Claire, who's white and Jammal worries with her father and everything. Thankfully, a subplot like this ends nicely and doesn't clog the film by preaching in the usual manner. Rich hammers points about Jammal being not as rich as some of his classmates, and how that's something which troubles Jammal. Rich also brings some fresh air into a tired and true concept about someone who does belong but due to some conflicts that someone feels they don't. But with the new, there is the old. There are things that are easy to predict. Still it's enjoyable, and to wrap it all up, there is some excellent character exchange and dialogue in the story. We really do care for a lot of the characters, which is always a good thing.

Gus Van Sant's direction is really extradoniary, to the say least. The film has some fantastic editing to really tell the story and make you remember it. The camera work is fantastic, as Van Sant manipulates the camera to symbolize some interesting points about race. Check out the part where Jammal is talking to his friend Fly after the basketball game and the people who pass through him. Also check out the comparison shot of sorts at around 1:16 and see for yourself, as it shows some differences between our two protagonists. There is some great technical work here and some great direction. Van Sant gives the film a soft, but nice and unique voice.

The acting is top-notch, you couldn't ask for a better cast. Sean Connery as Forrester is simply perfect, I really couldn't imagine anyone else in the role. He brings a wonderful sense of sorrow and intensity to the role, as we sort of sympahtize with him when we learn about his life. He shows his seclusion and his insecurities, there's just a lot to the character and Conney captures who he is perfectly. Anna Paquin as the rich but compassionate Claire is great (like usual), and newcomer Rob Brown does a very impressive job for his first role. I think Brown knows who Jammal is and can relate to him in some ways, and it seems he's a natural born actor. He really brings Jammal to life and really shows who the character is and how he evolves. Again, it's an impressive debut. He doesn't overdo it, he just plays it out. Busta Rhymes as Jammal's brother did a surprisingly good job, as he really did act it and didn't make it seem stupid. Finally, there's F. Murray Abraham who's such a joy to watch and does an incredible job as the villain of the story, Jammal's teacher Crawford. He's so devious and nasty, with a sense of intellect, integrity as well as elegance. I really liked his performance, he brought a lot to it. All in all, you really couldn't ask for a better cast.

"Finding Forrester" is a very good film, however, it's not exactly what I expected. I like the new spins on something pretty formulatic, but I just felt something was missing. Don't get me wrong, I liked it, but I thought it was going to be better. I guess I would have liked some more conversations between Forrester and Jammal on deep things, and not just about the writings and other matters like school. But the writing and the school stuff is pretty good, I guess there just should have been a balance of sorts in the conversations, but there didn't need to be, it's just my opinion. Also, the ending... it was pretty good, I mean, you can see it coming sort of, but I didn't really want it that way. Possibly, some thing else could have happened and Jammal still could have gotten to that end point in the film as far as what happens. However, if gotten to that point but not in that way, I don't think it would have been as effective. So I do really like it, but part of me doesn't. And that final shot... it's pretty powerful. Wow. So all in all, "Finding Forrestor" is really well made and it does go pretty quick. There's also nice values and lessons to gain from the movie as well. If you like character studies, acting that will blow your mind and a good story, check out "Finding Forrester".

The transfer for "Finding Forrester" disappointed me. It's not a bad transfer at all, but considering how good a lot of other Columbia/Tri-Star transfers were, this one ranks a bit lower. I hardly noticed any shimmering at all in this 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, and only in a certain spot there was very little noise. Grain and dirt is kept to a nice minimum, but what really brought the score down was that the transfer is uneven. Sometimes it's incredibly soft and a bit faded, where detail is lacking and colors look a little undersaturated. Other times, detail is fantastic with good saturation and a sharpness to it. It's a toss-up basically, but in the end, it's a lot more soft than sharp. Still, this transfer could have been a lot worse.

"Finding Forrester" features a pretty impressive 5.1 Dolby Digital track. Considering the low-key tone of the movie as it has a lot of dialogue, there are plenty of places for great surrounds and the track succeeds in creating a nice atmosphere for them. There can be a little jolt or two (such as when Jamal first meets Forrester), some nice hustling surrounds to make you feel like you're being part of everything (the basketball scenes, the city streets), nice simple surrounds (the rain sounds great) and of course, the really nice, soft score. The score brings a lot to the film and this track, and the music is mixed really nicely. I was surprised how good the music sounded. Overall, this is a very good, discreet mix for a very good film. An English Dolby Surround track is also included, as well as a French Dolby Surround. English subtitles and French subtitles are also on this release.

Unfortuantley, "Finding Forrester" is not as feature packed as I hoped it would be. The original specs had Van Sant doing a commentary actually, but when the final specs were released a few months ago, I was pretty disappointed that was dropped.

Still, what we have here is a decent package, a little above a bare bones edition. First up is one of two featurettes. The first is the HBO Making-Of Special. It has clips from the film and a slew of interviews that feature Connery, Van Sant, Abraham, Paquin, Busta Rhymes Brown writer Mike Rich, executive producer John King and producers Laurence Mark and Rhonda Tollefson. The featurette has some behind the scenes footage and it's pretty interesting to watch, but in the end, it is kind of fluffy.

The next featurette is Found: Rob Brown. It lasts twelve minutes and has clips from the movie, behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Van Sant, Mark, Abraham Connery, Brown himself and a few others. The featurette follows the process of how Rob Brown got picked, some necessary cautions and whatnot. This is a well done and interesting featurette, as they discuss experiences and the like, including some stuff on the basketball scenes. Plus there's a lot of praise from everyone for Brown. Be sure to check it out.

There are two Deleted Choir Scenes. Good move. These have no place in the actual film. You can watch the DeWitt-Clintong High School Chorus perform "Lean On Me" and "Laorymoma" in two channel sound and anamorphic widescreen. They sound nice, but again, there's really no place.

Rounding the disc out are Filmographies for Gus Van Sant, Sean Connery, Anna Paquin and F. Murrary Abraham. Plus, four Theatrical Trailers. There's "Finding Forrester" in anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 Dolby Digital (woohoo!), and "First Knight" (a Connery film), "Fly Away Home" (Paquin film) and "To Die For" (a Van Sant film). Those final three are in full frame.

I still would have liked that commentary from Van Sant, and even a commentary from writer Mike Rich. Though he does talk about his inspirations and how his screenplay got noticed in the keepcase insert (the Production Notes as listed on the back of the box), I really believed with a whole track he could have shared a whole lot more. Finally, if Rob Brown was on a commentary, it'd be a great addition. He was picked out of no where, and the story goes that he needed to pay off a cell phone bill. A commentary from a first timer, his experiences, more on to how he got the part would have been nice. However, the featurette is there and covers a nice amount of stuff. Oh well... other extras and more featurettes perhaps would have this a really well rounded package.

"Finding Forrester" is a very nice film with some nice points about life and friendship. It's entertaining with a great script and fabulous performances. While the transfer is disappointing and more extras would have been nice, this is a pretty good package overall.

(4/5 - NOT included in final score)

(3.5/5)

(4/5)

(2/5)

(3.5/5, NOT an average)

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