I admire films that shoot high and miss. But it really rankles me when a film pretends to shoot high, avoids doing so because of lack of talent, and lies to us in the process.
There’s great drama in the mere existence of an idiot savant. These are people who often are intolerable socially, inadequate in common thinking skills, and generally lead a cursed ‘elephantman’ life, except for their celebration as (in this case) mathematicians. Instead, we’re given a watered down likeable homeboy who has been abused. Oh and he has a photographic memory which is a separate pathology (the two never coincide). Depth discarded.
There’s truly deep drama in the mathematical problems good Will would be dealing with. But this would require a Nabokov, and his mastery of metaphor. Instead we get the koolaid version for dummies in some (as it turns out) meaningless scribbles and a bubble diagram. Depth is twice discarded. Believe me, this could be played up big; the power of a christ in some of the insights that are speculated — the voice and eye of God.
There’s also common, but good drama in the dedicating of one’s life to their gift at great personal sacrifice. We actually have some good films in this regard concerning musicians. Math is better since you don’t even get the applause. Here the guy with the insights but lack of language would be codependent martyr with the expert in the formalisms but no vision. But too hard, so pass.
I can attest that there are cinematic depths to be mined at NSA, MIT, even Southie in terms of the absolutely unique and strange feel of the places. How could this film have missed those dark assets and end up so totally without atmosphere?
This movie got made for one reason only: likeable Robin Williams saw a part for himself. Therefore, the previously described ignorances are filled by an amplified backstory so Williams can find himself after losing his wife. Pretty damned offensive given the possibilities. I predict that someone will do this story (or something like it) well sometime before I die. It’s just too rich, and we do have some bright minds available. It is just not these two kids.
Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.