Van Sant, Gus. Finding Forrester (DVD -- film). Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2001. $9.99, ASIN: B00005ASOC
Plot: Jamal is a great basketball player and a extremely smart kid, but his environment is harsh. As he studies in his small room, a family next door has a screaming argument, illustrating that he is overcoming the odds by being a great student. Curious about a famous, reclusive artist, he finds a way into his apartment. Crotchety and agoraphobic, the writer William Forrester hasn't had real human contact for years, but Jamal develops and uneasy friendship with him. Forrester is still writing, and he still loves writing, and he tutors Jamal. The two nurture each other. Jamal goes to a ritzy private school, where almost every student is rich and has been afforded a great education. With Forrester's tutoring, Jamal excels at writing, entering a contest that he wins. The judge, a bigoted teacher who would never admit to his racism, challenges Jamal, assuming that he has cheated. Will Jamal stick it out at this new school, or will he go back to his old school and his old way of life?
Critical Evaluation: This is a heartwarming, if somewhat conventional, story. Sean Connery delivers a wonderful performance as Forrester, and the connection between this character and the famous writer J.D. Salinger is obvious. Although the set up is conventional, Van Zant brings out wonderful characters, and Jamal is a fully believable character who copes with his foreign environment with distance and slight anger. The light touch that the director employs as he brings out the plot and the characters makes this a film about a teen pushing through barriers that would be a worthy addition to a library collection.
Reader’s Annotation: Jamal is from the hard streets of New York. When he meets a famous, reclusive writer and heads off for a rich private school, will he adapt in a way that he can live with?
Director bio: Gus Van Zant, a native of Portland, Oregon, has made a number of indie and mainstream films. He tends to focus on teen characters, and he is openly gay; gay themes made their way into his films much more when he was delivering smaller films for independent film companies.
Van Zant won an Academy Award for Good Will Hunting in 1997, and he is known to portray his young characters as dealing with environmental and psychological adversity.
Curriculum Ties: N/A
Reading Level/Interest Age: 12+
Challenge Issues: None.
Why Included: This is a hopeful movie about a teen overcoming adversity to excel on his own terms.