Evaluating ‘Finding Forrester’

Writing holds an almost mystical power. It changes those who wield it, and changes those around it. In “Finding Forrester” young Jamal Wallace uses this power to become the student of the reclusive William Forrester, a man so changed by the power of his writing he doesn’t even view himself as a human anymore, just the mystical author that wrote the amazing book “Avon Landing”. Their writing and the majesty behind it leads them to a level of trust and friendship that must withstand the force of each others frailties as well as the hammer blows of the world around them, and succeeds. “Finding Forrester” shows that geniuses don’t become geniuses by themselves, but only by allowing those close to them to uncover the amazing hidden things inside themselves The ghetto breed Bronx genius Jamal Wallace, played by Rob Brown, is a boy who appears nothing more then a basketball-wielding black kid, but at home has stacks of books, all memorized. Dared to break into the apartment of the mysterious man only known as “The Window”, Jamal accidentally drops his backpack, only to find it later with all his notebooks scratched in and edited. Lead by his thirst for knowledge Jamal goes back to the apartment and meets the legendary author William Forrester, a old man who hasn’t left his apartment in forty years. As Jamal begins his tutelage he is given a scholarship to a renounced private school because of his amazing test scores. There, the prejudice and jealousy of the English professor and failed author, Professor Crawford, forces Jamal’s loyalty to Forrester to the test, as well as forces William to take up a stand to save Jamal’s academic career. Jamal Wallace, played by the new actor Rob Brown filled the shoes of the ghetto savant brilliantly. One character attribute that lead to rob being such a good choice was

how laid back and un-cliché Jamal was. When faced with Williams mock-racism or even the real racism of Crawford, there wasn’t any overkill reaction that is so often expected by a persecuted character. As Michael McLarney states in his review of the movie “he never feels the need to make himself the poster child for all those oppressed in the past” (par 12). He is just a really determined kid with a very definite and serious set of values that he will in no way break. Rob brings out this in Jamal by always being at ease, when things are going his way, he’s calm, and when he’s being accused of lying, even then, he barley loses his calm. Because Rob portrays these clearly, he is an amazing choice for the role. William Forrester was played by Sean Connery and in this case James Bond makes an amazingly good enigmatic old man. The attribute that made Connery a good Forrester was his conviction. Sean’s joyous yell of “yes! YES!” as Jamal begins typing, this conviction reminds the viewer of the Dr. Frankenstein glorifying in his creation. His utter belief in the way socks should be worn, reminds us of that crazy uncle that no one talks about, together they paint the character of an eccentric mastermind. Sean makes William’s social inhibitions clear, as Michael McLarney describes “playing a man whose social displacement is so subtle, he doesn't even realize it himself until confronted with the need to help someone who has reached out to him as a person, not a legendary author” (par13). William Forrester believes himself perfectly fine until he is face to face with society, and has to overcome it. Sean Connery is an amazing actor and doesn’t fail us in ‘Finding Forrester’. He brings William Forrester to life as a man welling with energy despite his nuances.

F. Murray Abraham plays the role of Professor Crawford, a bitter man everyday faced with his own failure, and one of the more shallow characters of the movie. The reason is how obvious his jealousy and racism are. As Michael O'Sullivan states in ‘The Washington Post’, “F. Murray Abraham's portrayal of an embittered, racist teacher and failed writer, envious of Jamal's talent and determined to destroy him, is way too obvious.” A Professor couldn’t make it if he was that bent on crushing his best students, its just unrealistic, the fact that he is so convinced Wallace is cheating without even having a real reason for suspicion besides Wallace is black is too cliché for the movie. Luckily some explanation is provided by Crawford’s background, by failing at being a writer his is automatically inclined to make others fail. Michael McLarney supports this by stating, “Lined along the back wall of his classroom rest portraits of famous writers from years gone by. To face those paintings day after day with the realization that his own dreams of glory have dissipated before his eyes would make the drainage of any kind of compassion on his part” (par 11). In total, Crawford’s role as the opposition, may have been cliché but could have been much worse. The plot if this movie is realistic and shows how through writing two people meet and become unexpected friends, but it pulls off this sappy idea amazingly. The meeting and lessons between Jamal and Forrester is a battle of words and ideas, Jamal throws a question or a problem and Forrester answers with a lesson or answer, often in the form of another problem Jamal must overcome. The reclusive Forrester is given a friend while the plot avoids being too unrealistic or too sappy. When Jamal takes him to the baseball game Forrester is faced with going outside and almost makes it, but because of his failure his social problem becomes identified, and it’s known that he will have to face it again. The

same night his fear to state his friendship with Jamal is also identified, McLarney points it out perfectly stating, Forrester thanks him, telling him it was the best time he's had in years, then impulsively closes the door before the word ‘goodbye’ can be spoken. The word connotes a degree of personal closeness; an elusive and frightening concept to the reclusive William Forrester” (par 13). Jamal is then put between a rock and a hard place. If he makes his 2 shots then he proved to Crawford he’s just a basketball player and that’s the only reason able to go to the school, but if he misses the shots then his education dies so his pride can live. By choosing to miss them he shows Crawford and William how much his pride in his writing and education mean to him. Its then that William is faced with his problems the second time, and must place his love for his student and friend against his fear of the world, and by his love winning out he shows that he’s a changed person. That is a defining moment in the story, the fact that a famous man has been locked away by his own majesty and one boys friendship is able to break that lock, tells the extent Jamal and William changed each other. The central idea of this movie is the lessons learned by two geniuses. Through William’s help Jamal is able to discover the amazing writing talent he has, and through Jamal’s help William is able to discover the world that he only saw through his window for the past forty years. This move was able to bring this idea across clearly through its amazing characters. The characters of Jamal and William worked well together, and the metamorphosis that underwent both of them was clear. Jamal’s writing became amazingly good and William was able to see himself as an actual person rather then just an author. This effected him so much he not only went to Scotland, but left Jamal everything he

owned, including his writing, the most precious thing to him. “Finding Forrester” did all of this realistically, without making the story hard to understand. Overall this is a very good movie that will leave you in wonder at the extent of a young boys talent, and at the same time have you guessing at the true feelings of William Forrester. I rate this movie an 8.5/10 for its clean plot flow, in depth characters, engaging story, and lack of clichés. If you already haven’t, I suggest you go see it.