Plot: What’s it about?
Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown) is an excellent basketball player, but he also loves to write and even though his grades aren’t impressive, he is a smart person. Thanks to his skills on the court and some high scores on a standardized test, Jamal has been admitted into a private school, one that is very exclusive and prestigious. His school work is hard, but Jamal does his best and that’s not always enough, especially when his literature teacher, Robert Crawford (F. Murray Abraham) throws obstacles in his path. Even though Crawford knows Jamal is a gifted writer, he doesn’t like his background and as such, tries to discourage Jamal from writing, though to no avail. At the time, Jamal is pretty much alone in the school, but he will soon meet two new friends, one of which is Claire (Anna Paquin), a beautiful young student. The second friend is William Forrester (Sean Connery), a reclusive writer who won acclaim with his first novel, but never wrote a second one nor told anyone why he didn’t. A chance meeting turns into a friendship and soon, Forrester is Jamal’s mentor and the two begin to learn from one another. Jamal is learning to overcome the odds and focus on what he loves, while Forrester is trying to better deal with his past, as well as his future.
Even with a bad line from Sean Connery in the trailer, this was one I knew I had to see in theaters, as it looked to have real potential. Of course, I like Sean Connery a lot and he was the main reason I went, but the story also looked interesting, so I had decent hopes for Finding Forrester. In the end, this flick surpassed all my expectations and despite some heavy handed moments, was a real treat to view indeed. Flash ahead to the present and the movie is now on DVD, so I can attest to the repeat value of this one, which is high. I was able to pick up on some more themes and visuals the second time around, which is always welcome and I’m sure that in future viewings, I’ll see even more depth and such. Connery gives an excellent performance here, while Rob Brown, F. Murray Abraham, Anna Paquin, and Busta Rhymes compromise the solid supporting cast, a very impressive lineup I think. The direction of Gus Van Sant is ever stable and allows this story to unfold in fine form, an excellent overall motion picture. The message gets a little forced here and there, but in the end, Finding Forrester is still more than worth a look.
We’ve seen some terrific performances from Sean Connery over the years, but even after all that time, he still manages to maintain a high level of excellence. I was unsure how well he would mesh with the film’s environment, but Connery is dead on in all respects here, very impressive indeed. He even looks like a reclusive writer, which doesn’t hurt in the least. Always natural and relaxed, Connery is very believable in this flick, as he reads the dialogue as if it were his own words, very cool stuff. I know we think of more action laced films when Connery is involved, but once again, he has proven he can handle any kind of material, even straight drama. You can also see Connery in such films as Entrapment, Thunderball, The Rock, Zardoz, The Untouchables, Marnie, and Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade. The rest of the cast here includes newcomer Rob Brown, Busta Rhymes (Higher Learning, Shaft 2000), F. Murray Abraham (Last Action Hero, Amadeus), April Grace (Magnolia, Bean: The Movie), and Anna Paquin (The Piano, X-Men).
Video: How does it look?
Finding Forrester is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. We’ve come to expect excellent transfer from Columbia/Tristar and in this case, they have more than lived up to the reputation. The print used looks clean and allows for a sharper image, while I was unable to see any compression errors in the least. The film uses some strong color plates at times, so the more intense scenes might seem out of place, but the strong color is intentional. Most of the time however, colors seem natural and flesh tones look normal also, no real complaints here. I was pleased with the contrast as well, as it shows accurate black levels and a good detail presence throughout. Another Columbia/Tristar release, another more than solid visual presentation…
Audio: How does it sound?
This is very much a dialogue driven movie, so don’t expect a powerful audio experience, even though this disc uses a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. A few scenes allow the surrounds to open up, but on the whole, the main atmosphere is provided by more subtle audio touches. But since this is how it should be, I can’t find fault with the mix for offering a natural mix, not in the least. The music adds some depth and presence however, so this is not a dead and buried audio environment in the end. The vocals are the heart of the mix though, so it was vital for them to come across in fine form. The dialogue is well presented, with crispness and no signs of volume errors, impressive indeed. This disc also contains subtitles and 2.0 surround tracks in English & French, in case those better suit your needs.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes some talent files, the film’s theatrical trailer, and some deleted scenes that involve the choir, but the main bonus comes in the form of two featurettes. The first is Found: Rob Brown and it runs about twelve minutes, giving us the story of how newcomer Rob Brown was located and then cast to star within the flick. The second featurette is an HBO piece and runs about fifteen minutes, but gives a more broad overview of the entire production. I am pleased to have these two featurettes on deck here, but I would have liked a more substantial piece instead, or even a commentary track of some sorts.