School Ties – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Robert Mandel

Cast: Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon, Chris O’Donnell, Ben Affleck

Synopsis: David Greene (Fraser) has received a place in a prestigious high school due to the fact his skills as a quarterback can revive the school’s sporting glories.   Given the period setting however, it is recommended to him to keep his Jewish Heritage a secret.   His popularity within th school is widespread, while making an enemy of Charlie Dillon (Damon), who was supposed to take the quarterback position.   Fate would have it that Dillon learns Greene’s secret.

A review by Film Nerd.

Every time I revisit this film, the impact of it never diminishes.   These are all very early lead performances from Fraser, Damon, and O’Donnell, but each showed a talent that exceeded their years at this time.   In addition, you have a classic but all too recognisable story, of seeking acceptance within a different culture, and the choices made to gain this acceptance.

For Greene, he opts to hide his background.   The script is intelligent enough to make this not just an obvious decision.   Greene struggles with this, trying to still observe cultural rites in privacy, at times having to make choices between his culture (religious observance) and the culture he has been introduced to in this Ivy League sighted school (football and success).   In the end, it is the school that is made to appear more ridiculous, with misplaced priorities (to be the first in five generations of a family not to get into Princeton is a failure).   The film realistically portrays the [pressures on each of its protagonists, and makes the audience reflect on how they themselves rate success.

As alluded to before, the performances are uniformly brilliant.   Fraser is clearly believable in the role of popular quarterback, earning the trust of his colleagues prior to the truth being revealed.   He has shown on many more occasions how brilliant he is at comedy compared to his dramatic roles, yet this is one of those roles that it is clear he is equally adept at both.He is young, and he is a hot head, but his decisions are all made on moral grounds, and as such is clearly the better of all his colleagues.    Damon here also gives one of those performances that first shot him into the A-List.   You put this film alongside Good Will Hunting and Courage Under Fire, it really is quite a trifecta.   Though his character does become the villain of the piece, it is a well-played character arc that moves from admiration, to jealousy, to vengeance.    Dillon is not a likeable character, but nor should he be, emphasising how well Damon plays it.   Mention should also go to O’Donnell, who plays Greene’s room-mate.   He perhaps plays the most conflicted character when he learns Greene is a Jew.    He is clear-sighted enough to see that the fact did not change the person, yet this was in contradiction to the prejudice with which he had been raised.  Perhaps the role treads very closely to the character O’Donnell played in Scent of a Woman, but it is a good reminder of the pedigree he is capable of, especially in the face of the debacle that was the Schumacher Batman films.

If you have seen the film before, I urge yo to revisit it, as it is an understated but genuine masterpiece.   If you have not, and you consider yourself a movie fan, do yourself a favour and repair this oversight!!

4 stars out of 5


School Ties on IMDB

School Ties on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=]


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