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Finding Forrester (2000)starstarstarstar
Reviewed 2001-05-03: If you're a black kid in the Bronx (where I have taught) and you're also a basketball player, it may not matter how smart you are, or how well you write. It may not matter because few will look past Second Look Reviewthe basketball and the neighborhood from which you came. But if you're Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown) and you stumble onto a mentor like William Forrester (Sean Connery), who won a Pulitzer with his first and only book and then disappeared for forty-some years, maybe you have a chance.

Maybe. If you want to have any friends, you can't act as smart as you are. But if you have ambition, and your friends don't, sooner or later you make a choice. After finding Forrester, Jamal chose the path to a better school, and even kept up with basketball. Ah, but there are complications. One of his classmates, another black kid on the basketball team, grew up amid more privilege, and thinks he's better than Jamal. And Jamal's writing professor, Robert Crawford (F. Murray Abraham), a frustrated novelist himself, can't believe a black basketball player from the Bronx can write as well as he does. Will the reclusive Forrester come out and defend his "student"?

Sean Connery was a co-producer of Finding Forrester, which was directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting) and written by Mike Rich. As a matter of fact, Will Hunting himself (Matt Damon) makes a cameo appearance at the end. The climax was reminiscent of Scent of a Woman, and the dénoument a fitting reward for Jamal's ethics and friendship. You learn a little about writing (Write first, then think) and a lot about friendship in Finding Forrester.

Was Mike Rich thinking of the reclusive J.D. Salinger when he wrote the screenplay? Perhaps. But it has been suggested that Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, might be a better candidate. Her first novel won a Pulitzer, she never wrote anything else, and she lives as a recluse. But the First Novel Syndrome might as well apply to Margaret Mitchell as to anyone. I enjoyed Finding Forrester on its own terms.

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Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance reviewer.