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Heroes of the Zeroes: Finding Forrester

by on April 18, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Finding Forrester”
Rated PG-13

Concede the embarrassing scene, immortalized in ads for 2000’s “Finding Forrester,” of Sean Connery barking, “You’re the man now, dog!” in his brambly Scottish brogue. It’s a wincing moment, but hardly worth the condemnation lobbed at “Forrester” as a low-point sellout for director Gus van Sant. (Besides, van Sant’s rudderless 1998 remake of “Psycho” stands out as a point so low it’s subterranean.)

Lost in “Forrester’s” dismissal was an appreciation for its relatively piss-and-vinegar approach to the act of creating fiction. Jazzy, classicist and a bit meta, the film’s unexpectedly urbane quirks resembled Jonathan Demme films at their mainstream best.

Jamal (Rob Brown, free of affectation in his debut) is an eloquent, black high-school basketball player recruited by a private school. After a dare, he learns the shut-in upstairs is William Forrester (Connery), a lauded writer in J.D. Salinger-style seclusion who nevertheless fosters Jamal’s writing.

A hard turn into “Scent of a Woman” territory feels safe but isn’t without its own entertainment value, and there are worse go-to guys for smug, latently racist teachers than F. Murray Abraham.

Mike Rich’s amiable script more confidently teases out the rhythms and relaxations in its central friendship. Connery’s guarded-gusto performance is at its best when pondering how one never knows in what way their writing might empower an evolution — a responsibility with which he struggles in a climax that weighs courage against comfort.

“Forrester” felt like a less prickly version of 2000’s also-great “Wonder Boys,” but also joyously encouraged literary inspiration from mentor to protégé.

The trailer gives too much away. You won’t find it here.