Bronx Bomb

Patient: Finding Forrester

Profile: Good Will Hunting meets Field of Dreams, calls Stand and Deliver and invites it for coffee with Tall Story, and then heads over to To Sir, With Love's for a nightcap. Reclusive, J.D. Salinger-esque writer, who has spent 40 years living virtually alone in a Bronx apartment, mentors a young man on writing and life.

Symptoms: We're intrigued enough by their relationship to dismiss a few stock plot contrivances and characters. The problem is this has every stock plot contrivance and character: the goodhearted, loser brother; the spurned friend; the crotchety writer who's written the Great American Novel and is hiding the Big Secret; the goodhearted, rebellious rich girl; her mean, old rich father; the WASPy prep school; the mean, old, frustrated English teacher; the mean, old sports rival; the mean, old, frustrated English teacher getting his comeuppance; and not one but two Big Games!

Diagnosis: A movie that rails against the petty rewards of popular culture yet celebrates the worst of those petty rewards, Finding Forrester argues that celebrity—even a small amount at a WASPy prep school—is our salvation.

Prescription: Pare off about an hour, down to a lean 90 minutes centering on the action in the writer's apartment. You can still bring in the outside world as a contrast—to show how writing changes the way a person sees and reacts to that world. Also, they've got to come up with a better reason for the writer's seclusion. Presently, it's because of the death of a loved one; at one point, the writer angrily tells the kid that he can't possibly understand the pain of dealing with death. Hey, Medea: the kid lives in the Bronx.

Prognosis: A movie that shows how life, like writing, is changed incrementally through perseverance. A movie like that could still uplift, still intrigue and still stand a few plot contrivances, including the fact that anyone who's spent 40 years secluded in a Bronx apartment—even someone who's written the Great American Novel—would not be able to mentor anyone as most of his day would be taken up with mailing letter bombs and sifting through his own poop.

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