The Great Scenes: Harvard Ponytail Douche gets pwned from GOOD WILL HUNTING
The Movie: Good Will Hunting (1997)
Spoiler Level: Low
The Setup: Will Hunting (Matt Damon) and his pals visit a Harvard bar (with equations and sh*t on the walls) to pound some beers and, with some luck, meet some smart ladies looking to slum it for an evening. Will, a troubled janitor with a genius-level IQ, seems perfectly happy wasting his life and potential with his childhood friends working paycheck-to-paycheck at dead-end jobs and picking one senseless fight after another. As we find out later in Gus Van Sant’s film, Will’s demons reach far into his past, prompting a stubborn child to live an ordinary life with nothing to prove to anybody but himself.
When Will’s buddy Chuck (Ben Affleck) spies a couple of “Harvard honeys” and decides to “bust a move,” he’s interrupted by a ponytailed, pseudo-intellectual bully named Clark (Scott Williams Winters) who uses his Harvard “wits” to embarrass the less-educated Chuck in front of the girls (one of whom, Minnie Driver, is clearly familiar with and doesn’t like Clark). As soon as the flustered Chuck asks if there is going to be a problem, Clark continues his unprovoked beatdown before Will cuts into his douchey monologue to help his friend, impress the girls and, for lack of a better term, pwn would-be smart guy Clark.
Why It’s Great: Damon and Affleck’s Oscar-winning original screenplay rarely pops more than here in this scene, where the viewer becomes a part of the action. Clark is no match for Will, who surgically cuts this jerk down to size, serving up an ass-kicking wealth of knowledge and giving the guy what he deserves. We feel like we’re in that room watching this unfold just like everybody else. This little puke (and his puny posse behind him) gets sent back to the study group from which he came, moving along to a diner later one hoping to forget about the little incident across the street (and they don’t get off that easy either).
At this point in the movie, we know Will is a smart guy, much more so than his buddies, but we haven’t seen him bring his true A-game yet. Director Gus Van Sant seamlessly lets Damon slide into the frame in front of Affleck to hijack the conversation along with Clark’s forced recital of whatever text he read minutes before entering the bar. He likely read that and decided he’d use it on the first flunky “outsider” that stumbled into one of his beloved Cambridge bars. Too bad it backfired.
Instead, he learns the hard way not to use cruelty as a means to make yourself and others laugh. This privileged punk just get the laughs or, more importantly as we learn later, the girl. Damon and Affleck’s dialogue is laser-sharp and cracklingly entertaining. By the end of it, when will tells Clark how instead he might have spent his tuition money, you just want to scream, “OHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!” which I’m sure was a popular reaction in theaters.
We later see Will forced by an MIT professor (Stellan Skarsgård) to attend various job interviews in which he’s barely interested. He’s often guilt-tripped into thinking he’s somehow wasting his gift by working as a mechanic or construction worker and drinking through the morning in dingy bars. But Will never wavers in his belief that not only is he not wasting his talent, but he doesn’t owe it to anybody to leave his hometown and pursue anything greater. That’s partially true.
In this scene, we see how Will applies his potential to real life. With it, he protects his friends from elitist snobs who look down at that. Utilizing it that way means more to Will than any governmental position might. The moment wins one for Will and Chuck’s crew, as well as the audience, who are completely and immediately on their side. It also stresses the value of education to young people who see the scene. It might encourage them to visit their public library, even when they have $1.50 in late charges.
We happen to like them apples quite a bit.