David Green is brought into a prestigious 1950s school to help their football team to beat the school's old rivals. David, however, is from a working class background, so he isn't really "one of them", but he's very successful at making friends. David is a Jew, and has to keep this a secret from his friends for fear of being rejected. Written by
What is it about Jews that so many people hate them? From as far back as the Old Testament, to the weekly ramblings of Pat Buchanan and the fanatical Iranian president, Jews just can't seem to catch a break. What is it they've done that's so bad? They murdered Jesus, did they? And the Romans had nothing to do with that?
Anyway, this is a better film than I expected. Not only does it give us an interesting protagonist, but it allows us to feel like the outsider he is when he arrives at the elite prep school. Regardless of their religion, few people ever get a chance to attend such a ritzy school. Brendan Fraser plays David Green, a working-class Jewish kid who gets a football scholarship to St. Matthews for his senior year. The school is filled with smart and athletic young men destined for Ivy League schools and eventual seats at the head table of our society. The other boys David quickly befriends are played by a who's who of young acting talent just before they became huge stars. Chris O'Donnell, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck are all on display. Matt Damon's Charlie Dillion character is a real jerk. All the guys crack little Jewish jokes here and there, but once Damon learns the new kid's secret. He cranks the Anti-semitism level to really ugly levels.
Luckily for these guys, David Green knows that he has a great chance of getting into Harvard if he just ignores their jokes as long as they don't find out he's a Jew. Green is a tough kid who's had to fight for everything he has, and he could easily beat the snot out of any of them. Once the secret is out, the boys he thought were his new friends suddenly become either indifferent to him, or his enemies. The new girlfriend from a nearby school who adored him also turns her back once she learns his religion. The film could have stopped there and just been a pro-tolerance kind of exercise, but luckily there are other things going on. One of the boys is caught cheating, but the faculty doesn't know who. Unless the boy comes forward, the entire history class will be flunked for breaking the honor code. Green becomes a suspect because he initially hid his religious identity. Will he to take a fall for the guy who cheated?? The film is thoughtful and has interesting characters where it could have just given us closed-minded bigots. Even though we know these guys are ant-Semites, we at least see them as real people with complex problems and motivations of their own. The film boasts some beautiful and realistic locations in most scenes. There are some subplots not fully motivated or fleshed out. What exactly happens to the boy who bolts from his French exam? What became of him after his nervous breakdown? And why did this film feel the need to recylce a gag from the movie Real Genius about putting an intellectual's car inside his dorm room?? Still a very good movie that might make you think twice about cracking ethnic jokes around people you don't know that well. 8 of 10 stars.
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