Where the hell did Matt Damon come from? Maybe now we can get rid of Ethan Hawke (Chris O’Donnell and Skeet Ulrich are next). Gus Van Sant homoeroticizes, uh, I mean directs Damon and Ben Affleck from their own script with a decidedly unschticky Robin Williams in a story about a genius thug (Damon) from South Boston who’s discovered as a janitor at M. I. T. and pulled out of his shell by a burned-out therapist (Williams).
What saves this film from being a cloying “Dead Poet’s Society” is the cynical, outrageously funny portrayal of the life of a gang of 20-year olds from South Boston. This paves the way for Williams to slam open the door on Damon’s defenses and display what makes him tick. There are no villains in this story, only personal demons and no one is beyond being taken down a peg. Damon and Affleck obviously had a blast with this picture, as they apparently cast all of their friends. (All of Damon’s gang were in “Dazed and Confused”.) The real purpose of the movie seems to be to mock Affleck’s kid brother, Casey. The film rarely comes off as self-indulgent. Hell, Affleck was almost able to make me forget his milque toast performance in “Chasing Amy”. Almost.