Two unlikely heroes, in the shadow of Yankee Stadium, discover themselves through each other. This is the central theme of Finding Forrester (Columbia Pictures), the uplifting story of a reclusive author and a young basketball star with a hidden talent for writing. Finding Forrester has a remarkable tale to tell but at times lacks the production quality to do the story justice.
Sean Connery, whose career began as super-spy James Bond and includes an Academy Award for his role in The Untouchables (Paramount), plays the infamous William Forrester. Depicted as a hermit-author cloistered in his pre-war Bronx apartment, Forrester is completely shut off from the prying eyes of literary critics and admirers.
Forrester’s self-imposed exile is the product of his premature success as a writer. At 23 he wrote what other characters in the movie consider the seminal 20th century novel. The book’s theme, the destructive power of success that comes too easily, is one that repeatedly plays out in the American drama.
The audience is brought into this story indirectly through the eyes of Jamal Wallace, a high school basketball star played by newcomer Rob Brown. Jamal lives in the same seedy Bronx neighborhood that Forrester inhabits. Forrester lives in a corner apartment high above the local basketball courts, where much of Jamal’s life seems to occur.
An awkwardly engineered meeting between the aging author and the brash young upstart arrives in a dare for Jamal to break into Forrester’s apartment. This encounter, however poorly scripted, is the engine behind the movie.
The highlights of Finding Forrester take place in the interactions between Forrester and Jamal. Scenes in Forrester’s musty old apartment, filled with stacks of books reminiscent of the tenements towering over the streets of the Bronx neighborhood, are similar and on par with those in Good Will Hunting (Miramax). Forrester, colored by Connery’s lilting Scottish brogue, expounds upon the joys of writing and opens Jamal’s eyes to what it means to truly pour oneself out on the page.
Things begin to go awry, though – both for the characters and the script – when Jamal transfers to an elite private school more because of his basketball prowess than for any desire on the school’s part to take him seriously as a student. Here the film loses focus. Subplots that never play out are introduced only to confuse what could be an engaging story.
In his new school Jamal must contend with an egotistical teacher played by F. Murray Abraham (Scarface) and other elitists bent on bringing down the boy from the Bronx. Anna Paquin, another Academy Award winner for her performance in The Piano, plays Claire Spence, a love interest never fully explored. Claire comes with the added complication that her father is one of the school officials who appears to have it in for Jamal. If this scheme sounds complicated, it is.
The bottom line is that Finding Forrester is ruined by an overly complex script that distracts the audience from what makes this story so compelling – the interactions between Jamal and Forrester. These complexities hamper a movie with an amazing cast and incredible acting.
Finding Forrester is in theaters now