Finding Forrester

on December 22, 2000 by Christine James
An inspiring bildungsroman centered on the symbiotic relationship between a cerebral yet down-to-earth urban youth (Rob Brown) and his mentor, a revered but reclusive author (Sean Connery), "Finding Forrester" evades formula and over-sentimentality to emerge as both intelligent and heartwarming.

   Brown plays Jamal Wallace, a high schooler who's as impassioned by the literary masters as by the superstars of basketball. Fate lands him on the doorstep of William Forrester, a cantankerous hermit who, despite his misanthropic ways, takes a shine to Jamal and sees a potential in his writing abilities that he is compelled to nurture.

   Soon, Jamal's off-the-charts test scores win him placement in a posh private school with the highest of standards. A professor (F. Murray Abraham) of the bitter, seething variety--the sort who seems ever on the verge of erupting with an infuriated bellow of "Faaaaaber HOUSE!" while shaking his fist and gnashing his teeth--is skeptical of the verity of Jamal's genius, which not only threatens the mature but moody teen's opportunity to excel but compounds his doubts about where he belongs.

   But Forrester won't let his promising young ward give up. As Jamal learns from Forrester, so too does the author receive valuable life lessons from his protégé, finally beginning to face the tragedies that have for decades constrained his career and emotional well-being.

   The unlikely friendship is touchingly authentic thanks to genuine and profound performances from Connery and newcomer Brown. Even rapper Busta Rhymes is unexpectedly poignant as Jamal's equally gifted older brother who didn't make the most of his advantages but will do anything he can to help his sibling rise to the heights of which he's capable. Starring Sean Connery, Rob Brown, Busta Rhymes, F. Murray Abraham and Anna Paquin. Directed by Gus Van Sant. Written by Mich Rich. Produced by Lawrence Mark and Dany Wolf. A Columbia release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual references. Running time: 137 min.

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