Saturday, November 04, 2006

Finding Forrester - Movie Review

It's not often I review a movie here that's not either Fantasy/SF or for children, but the coming-of-age movie from Gus van Sant, Finding Forrester is suitable for teens and especially aspiring writers !

William Forrester is a writer who has remained reclusive after writing a Pulitzer Prize winning novel some forty odd years earlier. Living alone whilst battling his own inner demons, he hides out in a changing Bronx neighborhood where he makes the acquaintance of Jamal, an intellectually gifted inner city kid, who plays basketball and loves to write, and does both very well.

One night Jamal sneaks into "the Window's" apartment (the kids' name for Forrester as they often see him at his window, hiding behind the net curtains) and discovering that Forrester is not asleep after all, makes a panicked escape, leaving his backpack behind. Forrester taunts Jamal by hanging his backpack from the sash window, then, after hearing that Jamal gave a history lesson on BMW to the guy who runs all Forrester's errands, he throws the backpack out of the window into the street. Back home Jamal takes his notebooks from his backpack and discovers that Forrester has "red penned" them all, critiquing his work. Jamal goes to see Forrester, and a mentoring relationship springs between the two. Under Forrester's secret tutorship, Jamal blossoms. When Jamal's scholastic test scores come to the attention of a local (private) prep school, the officials there offer him a scholarship to attend and, if he chooses to do so, play basketball on the school team.

At the school, Jamal encounters racism, which is all the more insidious because it is covert. F. Murray Abraham plays a failed writer, Robert Crawford, who became an English teacher. Abraham oozes racism as he contrives to destroy Jamal, whom he accuses of plagiarism, clearly believing him to be just another inner-city, black basketball player who cannot be capable of anything more. However, Jamal is actually just that - a gifted writer, who just also happens to be a gifted basketball player. Truly scholarly, he shows up Crawford in class, which only further increases his enmity. Finally Crawford's dislike and covert racism manifests itself in the exclusion of Jamal's entry in the school's prestigious annual writing competition. The situation comes to a head when the teacher's racism is exposed for exactly what it is in a stunning, surprising climax.

Jamal, however, is not the only one to have a moment of redemption in the movie. Forrester, too, has such a moment as he comes to grips with his past, the past that has made him shut the world out for forty years. It's his friendship with Jamal that eases his return to the world from which he had withdrawn so long ago.

Finding Forrester is also available from


Unknown said...

I loved this movie!!!

Michele said...

I love it too - this was the second time I'd watched it in as many months. And I still found it moving and powerful...