WILL: Do you know how easy this is for me? Do you have any f***in' idea how easy this is? This is a f***in' joke.
Professor Lambeau thinks he's doing Will a favor by giving his intelligence an outlet. But he doesn't realize just how easy Will finds all the math problems Lambeau throws his way. Will finds it all so easy that he feels it's even more a waste of his time than drinking in a bar all day.
LAMBEAU: This boy has that gift. He just hasn't got the direction, but… we can give that to him.
Professor Lambeau realizes that Will has a lot of emotional and behavioral problems. But he's also certain that he can help Will put his amazing intelligence to good use if Will can work out his head issues.
SKYLAR: You know there are very smart people here at Harvard, and even they have to study because this is really hard. And yet, you do it so easily. I don't understand—I don't understand how your mind works.
Like anyone who knows Will, Skylar can't wrap her head around how he's so smart. After all, she lives in a world of super-smart people at Harvard University, but even they can't come near Will's intelligence.
LAMBEAU: Yeah, you were smarter than me then and you're smarter than me now. So, don't blame me for how your life turned out; it's not my fault.
Lambeau is willing to admit that his friend Maguire is smarter than him. But he also thinks deep down that Maguire is a failure who's squandered his gifts, and he doesn't want Will to go down the same path.
MORGAN: My boy's wicked smart.
Will might have tried to hide his intelligence over the years, but his friends aren't dumb. They know there's something really different about Will, even if they can't fully understand what it is or what it means.
WILL: Why? So I can realize she's not that smart, that she's f***in' boring? Y'know—I mean... this girl is like f***in' perfect right now, I don't wanna ruin that.
Will is an intelligent dude, but sometimes he's too intelligent for his own good. In this case, he overthinks his relationship with Skylar by wanting to keep it perfect. Will thinks that if he spends too much time with Skylar, he'll start to see all her imperfections. Or (gasp!) she might see his.
LAMBEAU: He had no access to any scientific work. But he came across this old math text. And from this simple text, he was able to extrapolate theories that had baffled mathematicians for years.
One of Professor Lambeau's great heroes is a man from India named Ramanujan, who apparently had no formal education. All he had was a math textbook, and he was so intelligent that he could create some of the most advanced math ever just from what he learned in the textbook.
LAMBEAU: Now this… this Ramanujan, his—his genius was unparalleled, Sean. Now this boy is just like that.
The whole reason Lambeau tells the story of Ramanujan is because he wants to explain to Maguire just how special he thinks Will is. Lambeau thinks that Will is the kind of genius who comes around once every few centuries, and he honestly doesn't care if Will has a few emotional problems. He wants Will to contribute to the world of math as much as possible so the world can reap the benefits.
LAMBEAU: Don't infect him with the idea that it's okay to quit, that it's okay to be a failure. Because it's not okay, Sean.
Lambeau is the one who brings Will to Maguire for help. But he's also worried that Maguire will teach Will that it's okay to accept himself no matter what he does. Lambeau doesn't believe that happiness is everything. He thinks that the worst thing in life is wasted potential, regardless of whether someone is happy.
LAMBEAU: Well, the proof you're working on... can do some, more advanced... combinatory mathematics. Finite math.
WILL: Sounds like a real hoot.
When Lambeau first approaches Will, he tells him that one of the conditions of getting out of prison is for Will to work with him on some math problems. Will sarcastically says it sounds like fun. But he really has no choice if he wants to stay out of jail. He'll have to use his unique intelligence whether he wants to or not.
MAGUIRE: I ask you about love, y'probably quote me a sonnet. But you've never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable... known someone that could level you with her eyes.
It doesn't take long for Maguire to see through Will's childish mind games, no matter how clever they are. He knows that Will has experienced all of life through the books in his tiny apartment. But he also knows that Will doesn't have firsthand knowledge of the world because he's too scared to take risks with his heart.
MAGUIRE: And you wouldn't know what it's like to be her angel, to have that love for her be there forever. Through anything. Through cancer.
Maguire knows that Will is a lot smarter than he is, but he also knows he has something that Will doesn't: the true experience of loving someone and being totally out of control. He knows that Will has never dealt with watching someone he loves die of cancer, and that gives Maguire an advantage in his efforts to help Will open up.
MAGUIRE: You don't know about real loss, because that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself. I doubt you've ever dared to love anybody that much.
Maguire makes a good point when he says that Will doesn't know real loss because he's never let himself love someone enough to be devastated by losing them. And in this sense, he's never really lived. Because in Maguire's view, feeling real loss is one of the things that makes us fully human.
SKYLAR: Look, um... If you don't love me, you should tell me because it's such a—
Skylar loves Will a lot, and before they go any further together she needs to know if he loves her back. Even though he keeps pushing her away, she won't leave him alone unless he looks her in the eye and says he doesn't love her.
SKYLAR: You're afraid of me. You're afraid that I won't love you back. And you know what? I'm afraid too.
Skylar knows that Will is afraid of their love because he thinks it will hurt him in the end. But she's willing to admit that she's scared too. After all, love is scary. Anything that can hurt you that badly is scary.
SKYLAR: I love you. I wanna hear you say that you don't love me. Because if you say that, then I won't call you, and I won't be in your life...
The only way Skylar will get out of Will's life is if he says he doesn't love her. Otherwise, she'll think that he's just scared and she'll keep trying to help him through it.
WILL: I don't love you.
When he's finally confronted by Skylar about whether he loves her, Will stares deep into her eyes and tells her he doesn't. This is crushing for Skylar, and we know that this is still Will's fear and weakness overcoming him. He still hasn't learned enough to open up and let himself be vulnerable with someone else.
SKYLAR: I love you… Will?
Even after Will has told her he doesn't love her, Skylar keeps telling him she loves him. She knows that Will is trying to push her away, but part of her must think that he'll open up if she keeps pressing her love on him.
MAGUIRE: I don't regret the eighteen years I was married to Nancy. I don't regret the six years I had to give up counseling when she got sick. And I don't regret the last years when she got really sick. And I sure as hell don't regret missin' the damn game.
To help make a point with Will, Maguire tells the story of how he missed one of the biggest baseball games ever to hang out with the woman who would become his future wife. Will can't believe he'd miss such a big event for a girl, but Maguire tells him that this is the whole point of life. He feels a ton of pain for losing Nancy. But he doesn't regret a single moment he ever spent with her.
WILL: Sean, if the Professor calls about that job, just tell him, sorry, I had to go see about a girl.
At the end of the movie, Will seems to embrace the things Maguire has taught him. Instead of taking a high-paying and prestigious job, he drives off to California to see Skylar. In this sense, he has finally made a decision that's right for him and his emotional future. It doesn't mean he's always going to be all right. It doesn't even mean that things will work out with Skylar. But what it does mean is that Will has gotten over his fear and is ready to embrace the uncertainty of love.
MAGUIRE: You're just a kid. You don't have the faintest idea what you're talking about.
Maguire knows that Will is smart, so smart that it takes him (Will) less than a minute to find Maguire's biggest vulnerability—his dead wife—and start pressing on it. But even though this get to Maguire at first, Maguire presses back and reminds Will that being smart doesn't mean that he's lived a full life. And that's the kind of thing Maguire wants to help him with.
MAGUIRE: So, if I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo.
Maguire knows that Will has lived his entire life through books. But reading books is not the same thing as experiencing life firsthand. One of Will's biggest problems is that he's scared to experience things firsthand. In books, he can control everything. But in real life, there's a lot of uncertainty and Will finds this really scary.
MAGUIRE: But I bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You've never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling.
Once again, Maguire brings up an example of something he's experienced firsthand that Will hasn't. Of course, he's not saying he's better than Will because he's traveled. His point is that he's willing to go out and experience things, while Will is only comfortable in situations he controls completely. This is a comfort zone that Maguire will try to get him out of.
MAGUIRE: You're a tough kid. I ask you about war, you'd probably uh... throw Shakespeare at me, right?
As his speech continues, Maguire keeps listing all of the things that Will has only experienced through books. His basic point is that there's a whole lot of stuff in life that you can't learn from books. There's a lot that you can only learn firsthand, and this is the stuff that Will needs to go out and expose himself to.
MAGUIRE: I look at you: I don't see an intelligent, confident man. I see a cocky, scared s***less kid.
Finally, Maguire tells Will what he really thinks of him. Will thinks everyone sees him as a genius, but Maguire only sees a cocky scaredy-cat. He never argues for a second that Will isn't a genius because it's clear that he is. But he wants Will to put more focus on the stuff he doesn't know.
MAGUIRE: You're an orphan, right? Do you think I'd know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are because I read Oliver Twist?
To help Will see his point, Maguire turns the tables on him and asks how he would feel if Maguire pretended to know about his experience as an orphan just from reading Oliver Twist. This point seems to hit home with Will, and in a way, it marks the beginning of his real growth into adulthood.
MAGUIRE: I can't learn anything from you I can't read in some f***in' book. Unless you wanna talk about you, who you are. And I'm fascinated. I'm in. But you don't wanna do that, do you, sport? You're terrified of what you might say.
Maguire knows that he'll never have a real conversation with Will unless Will learns to open up and talk about himself. So he tries to remind Will that the only stuff he can say that's actually interesting is stuff about himself. After all, Maguire can go to a library if he wants to hear someone quoting everything he says from books.
WILL: Well, I think that's a super philosophy, Sean. I mean that way you could actually go through the rest of your life without ever really knowing anybody.
Will turns the tables on Maguire when he catches Maguire retreating from life because of his wife's death. He mirrors Maguire's own words back to him and basically calls him a hypocrite for not following his own advice. This is a big moment in the movie, because this is when both Maguire and Will start growing as a pair instead of as individuals.
WILL: So I was… I was wonderin' if uh... if, you know, you'd give me another crack at it, you know, lemme take you out again.
Will takes a big step in growing up when he goes back to Skylar after blowing her off and asks her for a second date. Normally, he would retreat from someone he feels such strong feelings for. But after talking to Maguire, Will knows that he needs to start taking more risks with his heart if he's ever going to grow as a person.
MAGUIRE: Hey, Will? I don't know a lot. But you see this? All this s***. It's not your fault.
In the movie's climax, Maguire confronts Will with photos of the injuries he got as a foster child. Will tries to brush the injuries off as unimportant, but Maguire tells him, "It's not your fault" and keeps repeating this phrase until Will breaks down and cries. We can tell that this is a real moment of healing because it's the first time Will has really broken down and been vulnerable in front of another person.
WILL: You dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a f**in' education you coulda got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library.
When he's smack-talking Clarke at the Harvard bar, Will reminds us all that an education is only as good as what you do with it. There's no point in dropping a ton of money on your education if all you're going to do is repeat what you've read in books. You need to have some sort of original thinking.
CLARK: Yeah, but I will have a degree. And you'll be serving my kids fries at a drive-thru on our way to a skiing trip.
In his final effort to save face, Clarke reminds Will that there actually is a reason for spending so much money on his education, because the degree he gets from Harvard will get him a good job. But Will isn't impressed. In his mind, having a good job can't cover up the fact that someone has no original thoughts in his head.
SKYLAR: Well, I've got to go. Gotta get up early and waste some more money on my overpriced education.
Skylar has heard Will criticize a Harvard education in his argument with Clarke. He didn't mean to make Skylar feel bad, but there's still some part of her that realizes he's right, even though she makes a joke about it.
LAMBEAU: And he lived in this tiny hut somewhere in India, but he had no formal education.
One of Lambeau's biggest intellectual heroes is a man who lived in rural India and had no formal education. As a professor, Lambeau knows that education is extremely important to 99% of people. But there is always that small percent who are just naturally gifted no matter how much education they've had.
MAGUIRE: Right. My dad laid brick. Okay? Busted his ass so I could have an education.
Maguire isn't knocking manual labor as a profession. After all, his father laid brick so he could go to school. But he's pretty skeptical about the idea that this is really what Will wants to do with all his intelligence.
MAGUIRE: You could be a janitor anywhere. Why did you work at the most prestigious technical college in the whole f***in' world? And why did you sneak around at night and finish other people's formulas that only one or two people in the world could do, and then lie about it?
Maguire rightly challenges Will on his desire to just be a manual laborer for the rest of his life. He knows that somewhere inside Will there's a hunger to set his intelligence loose. That's why, of all places, Will chose to become a janitor at MIT and spend his spare time solving math problems.
SKYLAR: You know there are very smart people here at Harvard, and even they have to study because this is really hard.
Skylar recognizes how insanely smart Will is. But she also needs to remind him that for the rest of the world, homework is hard and they have to try their best to learn. It's not like Will can always be there to figure everything out for her.
SKYLAR: No. I—I've got to learn this.
All Will wants to do is goof around and hang out, but Skylar is focused on getting the most out of her expensive education. It's true that everything she does is easy for Will, but that doesn't change the fact that she needs an education if she's going to do what she wants with her life.
SKYLAR: Growing up in England, you know, I went to a very nice school. You know, it was kind of progressive, organic, do-it-yourself, private school. Then Harvard. And then med-school. You know, if you think about it, at the end, my brain's going to be worth two hundred and fifty thousand dollars...
Skylar isn't naïve about how much has been spent on her education, especially compared to Will, who has never spent a dime on school. But all that aside, Skylar has chosen a certain path in life and she's determined to stay on it.
MAGUIRE: Why did you work at the most prestigious technical college in the whole f***in' world? And why did you sneak around at night and finish other people's formulas that only one or two people in the world could do, and then lie about it?
Maguire accepts the fact that manual labor is an honorable thing to do with your life. But he doesn't buy the idea that this is what Will really wants. If that were the case, why would we work at MIT and spend his nights finishing complicated math problems? It's somewhere around this point that Will realizes he's right.
JUDGE: Son, my turn. I've been sitting here for ten minutes now looking over this... rap sheet of yours. I just can't believe it. June '93, Assault. September '93, Assault. Grand theft auto, February '94.
After listening to Will rant about American legal history, the judge finally steps in and delivers the facts as he knows them. He reads out Will's history of violent, antisocial behavior. This is also the first time we've heard Will's entire history, and we can tell at this point that there's something definitely wrong with Will's emotions.
LAMBEAU: No it isn't, Sean. This boy has that gift. He just hasn't got the direction, but we can give that to him.
Sean Maguire thinks Professor Lambeau is being dramatic when he says Will is a once-in-a-lifetime genius. But Lambeau insists that they need to get Will's emotions under control in order to harness his gift. Of course, Lambeau isn't necessarily interested in curing Will's dissatisfaction. He just wants to do whatever it takes to get Will working for him to his fullest abilities.
MAGUIRE: Wait a minute. Wait a minute, Gerry. Let's talk about the boy. Why don't we give him time to figure out what he wants?
After listening to Lambeau's rant about Will's genius, Maguire insists that they let Will figure things out for himself. The problem is that Lambeau won't be satisfied with any answer that doesn't result in Will devoting his life to mathematics.
WILL: Oh come on. Why is it always this, I mean, I f***in' owe it to myself to do this… why if I don't want to.
Will is sick and tired of people telling him that he needs to use his gifts and live up to his potential. In his mind, he's the one who gets to decide what he wants to do with his life. The thing is that he actually wants to do more with his intelligence, but he's scared about not being able to do it on his own terms.
CHUCKIE: No. No no. F*** you. You don't owe it to yourself. You owe it to me. 'Cause tomorrow I'm gonna wake up and I'll be fifty. And I'll still be doin' this sh**.
Will is tired of people telling him he's owes it to himself to live up to his potential. But this isn't what Chuckie wants to tell him at all. Chuckie thinks that Will owes it to all the other men he works with on the construction site, because any one of them would kill for a ticket to a better life. Will has that ticket and he refuses to use it, and this annoys Chuckie a whole lot.
CHUCKIE: I mean, you're sitting on a winnin' lottery ticket. And you're too much of a pussy to cash it in. And that's bullsh**. 'Cause I'd do f***in' anything to have what you got.
Chuckie says he'd do anything to have the kind of gifts that Will does, which makes it that much harder for him to stand by and watch Will waste all his potential doing jobs that anyone in the world could do.
CHUCKIE: Hanging around here is a f***in' waste of your time.
As he so eloquently puts it, Chuckie thinks that working at a construction site is a waste of Will's time. Everyone else knows it and they're actually a little offended that Will is using this job as a way to escape from his problems.
CHUCKIE: But you know what the best part of my day is? It's for about ten seconds from when I pull up to the curb to when I get to your door. Because I think maybe I'll get up there and I'll knock on the door and you won't be there. No goodbye, no see you later, no nothin'. Just left.
Chuckie finally sums up his thoughts on Will's life when he says the best part of his day is the ten seconds he spends waiting at Will's door to pick him up. He always hopes that Will will be gone… because he's sick of watching Will waste his gifts on the dingy life he lives in the Southie neighborhood of Boston.
LAMBEAU: Most days I wish I never met you. Because then I could sleep at night, and I wouldn't... and I wouldn't have to walk around with the knowledge that there's someone like you out there. And I didn't have to watch you throw it all away.
If you want to talk about dissatisfaction, look no further than Professor Gerald Lambeau. The dude is so committed to mathematics that he wishes he'd never met Will Hunting. Then he wouldn't have to stand by and watch the greatest genius of his time throw away his gifts. The reason he's so upset is because Will is basically making him feel as though the knowledge he's spent his life working on is totally worthless.