A Look Back: School Ties

What if you wanted to make a coming-of-age movie featuring a cast of serious young actors set in a stuffy fifties boarding school but preferred to omit the inspirational teacher part?  If it was set in rural Australia, it would probably look like “Flirting” which came out in 1992, but if it was the US, it would likely resemble “School Ties,”(released the same year)  starring Brendan Fraser with a supporting cast which includes Chris O’Donnell, Matt Damon (who plays the treacherous roommate) and Ben Affleck. Though this movie does have its share of expected clichés, it avoids including the teacher who changes young lives forever. Other than that, it’s very well-acted, but has a familiar storyline.

Brendan Fraser plays David Greene, a working class teen, who is recruited by a prestigious prep school for his football talent, although he’s also no slouch in the classroom (he wants to go to Harvard). He’s also Jewish but not the kind you can “tell,” and so when he enters the school, he’s able to fit in and make friends quickly, including his roommate, Matt Damon, who likes him at the start but then after losing his would-be girlfriend and his place on the football team, accidentally discovers Brendan’s secret and then reveals it to all.

The adults in the movie are no help at all, being either clueless, have a knack of inserting their foot in their mouth, or harshly authoritarian (one character has a nervous breakdown as a result). so it’s left up to Brendan to stay true and follow his own moral compass when he winds up involved in a cheating scandal. Fortunately (spoiler alert), the culprit is apprehended and expelled, and that’s how things conclude, with Brendan becoming wiser, if more cynical. It’s not as satisfying an ending as “Dead Poets Society,” because there’s no indication that Brendan’s peers have had any kind of dent made in their anti-Semitism or are considering a career other than law or medicine. But that’s probably a more realistic one, even if doesn’t give you the same kind of satisfaction as watching a group of teens openly defy authority and stand up on their desks anyway.





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