Finding Forrester

Finding Forrester speaks softly but carries a big surprise: Sean Connery shows fear. After five decades as a macho legend, from James Bond to Entrapment, Connery, 70, triumphs by lowering his guard. This is a magnificent performance, rapt, intuitive, and graced with humor and heart. As William Forrester, a reclusive, J.D. Salinger-like author who hasn't published a word since his first novel won a Pulitzer forty years ago, Connery shambles around a South Bronx apartment in pajamas, amusing himself by bird-watching, reading the tabloids and tutoring Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown), a sixteen-year-old black prodigy whose basketball prowess has earned him a prep-school scholarship. Forrester's literary mentoring means more to Jamal. Queries about writing or the great man's recipes for soup are OK, but personal prying is out. "That's not a soup question," Forrester snaps when Jamal tries to uncover family secrets. It's Jamal who gets the hermit out of his bunker to watch basketball playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Connery is masterful at expressing the fright and disorientation Forrester feels in a crowd, releasing his demons later in a quietly devastating scene in a deserted Yankee Stadium. The ending leans to soap opera, but director Gus Van Sant, revisiting the closet-genius theme of Good Will Hunting, is too keen an observer of character to let this funny and touching film go soft. Brown, with no acting experience, is a remarkable find. Even when the plot veers off into Jamal's feud with an academic prig (F. Murray Abraham) and a flirtation with a rich white girl (Anna Paquin), Connery and Brown engage in a tricky duel of wits. Don't ask how it all ends. That's not a soup question.

From The Archives Issue 278: November 16, 1978