He's only twenty years old (Matt Damon), but he already stands out in his rough, working-class neighborhood in South Boston. Like his friends, he does menial jobs between stints at the local bar and run-ins with the law. Yet he can summon obscure historical references from a photographic memory, and almost instantly solve math problems that frustrate Nobel Prize winning professors. While he is smarter than most almost anyone there, he scrub floors as a janitor at MIT.
The one thing this unbelievably bright, impossibly angry young man can't do - after his latest bar fight - is talk his way out of a pending jail sentence. His only hope is Sean McGuire (played in the usual schticky way by Robin Williams), a college professor-turned-therapist with an admiration for his emotional struggles, and a keen understanding of what it's like to fight your way through life.
Despite a premise that stretches credibility, and a romance that fails to ignite any sparks, the trio (Van Sant, Affleck and Damon) have produced a real audience pleaser.
Director Gus Van Sant had some interesting comments about how MTV has affected the movies in a recent interview:
"In the 17 or so years that MTV has existed, an entire generation has grown up accepting the film styles of the people hired to make the videos, very often people that were influenced by the experimental cinema of the '60's or 8 mm. work or low-budget work. Therefore a 15-year-old today finds no difficulty in a degraded video image that could be projected on a 35 mm screen and accepts it as a valid piece of dramatic work. That, to a very large extent, promoted independent cinema, which is still growing."
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