Minnie Driver received her first and only Oscar nomination for her performance as Skylar in Gus Van Sant's Good Will Hunting. 1997 is not considered to be a very good year for this category, and it's easy to see why. The performances were across the board underwhelming, with only Julianne Moore's role being something interesting or even Oscar-y. Driver's role as Skylar is Good Will Hunting is a perfect example. It's a terribly generic role of Matt Damon's girlfriend, who is essentially an ordinary college girl. It doesn't help that Driver looks about five years older than she is supposed to be, and she towers over Damon who looks so young in the film. Good Will Hunting lost a lot of its luster for me this time around, though I still appreciate Damon and Williams' performances more than most. As for Driver, her performance really is all over the place and generic but she has some really strong scenes that work for me.
Minnie Driver is at her best in the film when she is portraying the beginning of the romance between Skylar and Will. The two of them have a good, natural chemistry (apparently they were very briefly an item after the movie) and you can see the attraction Will might have to this girl. The two are vastly different from one another, and Driver makes her so dorky and average in an appealing way. She's got the looks but not the ego. Just like Kim Basinger, a lot of Driver's natural gifts come in handy. She's got a deep voice mixed with that British accent that makes her sound very unique, and her height allows her to tower over even Ben Affleck. All of her charm and appeal comes from how normal Skylar is. She's appealing because she's the type of person you feel you've know you're entire life. This section of the performance is really strong, because Driver convinced me of Will's attraction to her, and was so lovable.
Then comes the scenes where Driver actual has to start displaying some of the tougher emotions, and build an even strong connection with Damon to elevate her character to someone that he falls in love with. It all comes to a head with a huge confrontation scene where Damon ends up screaming at her as she sobs in the most dramatic way possible. It's here that Skylar disappears and the performance becomes Minnie Driver ACTING. The level of her hysteria is horribly awkward and comes out of nowhere, with none of the emotions that Driver is portraying carrying any weight and her awful hand motions looking very self-conscious and fake. It doesn't work because you don't feel like these two love each other. They seem like a fun, casual couple that would go on a few dates and have fun together. The relationship never goes to a place where either of these two would act like this, or at least the screenplay never allows them to get there. Driver's shrill overcompensation doesn't help.
Once again I find myself with a performance of extremes. The script of Good Will Hunting lets Driver down in a lot of ways, and this role is not an Oscar role in a lot of ways. She takes advantage of her natural affability and a warm chemistry with Damon in those early scenes, but quickly becomes shrill and awkward with him with the drama begins to unfold. Minnie Driver isn't a bad actress, but her inexperience at creating a full character comes through here. Not the worst nominee ever, but this performance shouldn't have earned her a seat at the Kodak Theater. 2.5/5 Thelmas.