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It's a line the headmaster of the school asks the star quarterback
David Greene when he catches him praying at church after curfew but
praying in observance of the Jewish new year. Greene's reply to the
Headmaster of this Christian Prep Academy is..."mine or yours". This is
the essence of the storyline. A Christian Prep Academy in New England
is tired of mediocrity in football and losing to their arch rival so
they compromise their admission standards by recruiting a brilliant
student athlete from Pa. The problem isn't that David Greene doesn't
measure up academically, it is that he is Jewish.
Soon after coming to school Greene realizes his classmates disdain and ridicule for Jews. They scorn them and make stereotype remarks that bother Greene but he is determined to fit in. Eventually his classmates and friends discover his secret and this is as far as I go. See the movie and see how David and his friends handle the situation.
Fine performances are put in by Brendan Fraser, as David Greene. You'll be astonished at the youthful talent in the movie as really good performances are put in by Matt Damon, his real life buddy Ben Affleck, Chris O'Donnell, and all the others. I really enjoyed the story, the time setting, and the substance of the message.
I've read the first 30 comments about this movie. Not once did anyone comment on the reasons why Greene (Fraser) never mentioned his religion -- the casual "joking" and "common knowledge" comments heard in the bathroom. Is it any less a matter of prejudice to use the phrase "I jewed him down" than it would be to use the term "kike"? Is telling a derogatory joke about homosexuals any more offensive than calling us "fag"? This is the only movie I can think of right off-hand other than "The Laramie Project" that makes the point that casual speech can be used as a form of maintaining prejudice. For this reason alone, "School Ties" is an important film. As a survivor of a 1964 prep school much like the one in the movie, I can tell you that the scenes and attitudes are accurately presented. I found the characters to be a little one-sided, yes. It's rare to meet any person who is as totally focused and determined as the Greene presented here. Nor is any prejudiced person or group normally so totally open in expression as the "good old boys" we see in this production. But, that's the most impressive way to show the public just how bad it is to be bigoted or to be the target of bigotry. For the production and acting values I'd give this film 6 on a scale of 10. For the "pre-star" status performances of Fraser, O'Donell, Damon, and, yes, even Affleck, I'd give it a 7.5 on a scale of 10. For the message I'd give it 9.5 on that same scale. "School Ties" is a movie that can be enjoyed by anyone who sees it. For "star followers", it has a cool four New Idols in "pre-star" roles to add to their tape collections. For the activists in the world it is a stark and dramatic example of how prevalent unrecognised bigotry is in our society.
Nowadays people only watch this movie for one reason and that is to see Brendan Fraser, Chris O'Donnell, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck before they began starring in the high budget blockbusters of "The Mummy Returns", "Batman and Robin", "Saving Private Ryan" and "Armageddon". The film is undoubtably better than all of the four mentioned above as rather than relying on Special Effects the four get a chance to act. Damon (the bad guy) is possibly most impressive but O'Donnell (the good guy), Fraser (the new guy) and Affleck (the cool guy) also give arguably the finest performances of their careers to date. The producers of School Ties have a lot to thank their casting director for 8/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the things that this film does so well is point out how people make
ethnic jokes totally unaware that some of the people around them may be of
the same ethnicity. This gives the central character the opportunity to get
a good look at what type of person that they really are and how to react to
it. Story takes place in the 1950's and is about David Greene (Brendan
Fraser) who is Jewish and from Scranton and and he gets a scholarship to a
good prep school in the New England area and he decides not to tell anyone
about his being Jewish. He's recruited to be the new quarterback on the
football team and once he arrives he meets some of his new dorm buddies. His
roommate is Chris Reece (Chris O'Donnell) and the person he is replacing at
quarterback is Charlie Dillon (Matt Damon) who likes to tell people that he
is going steady with the beautiful Sally Wheeler (Amy Locane). David does
well in his studies and becomes a star on the team and gets along with
everyone but once he meets Sally sparks fly.
Both David and Sally like each other instantly and soon Charlie discovers what is going on and becomes furious. Charlie looks at David as the person who took not only his position on the team but also the guy who took his girl. Then he overhears from a former alumni that David is Jewish and he uses this to try and get even. David now has to hear ugly racist jokes and find Nazi slogans tacked up in his room but he also loses Sally who could never date a Jew. While taking a final in one of his classes he notices Charlie cheating and later the teacher finds the cheat notes on the floor and he tells the students that they must find the culprit themselves or they all flunk. David tells Charlie to tell the truth but he uses this to tell everyone that it was in fact David who cheated.
This film is directed by Robert Mandel and the screenplay is written by Dick Wolf who bases this story on his own exploits as a young man in prep school. We have all seen films dealing with racism before and while this doesn't have anything to say that you haven't heard before it does do a splendid job of pointing out how racism can exist even when it's meant as a harmless joke or gesture. But things do get ugly in this film after David's true identity is revealed and here he learns that some of the people he thought were friends are really just bigots. Another good thing that this film brings to a familiar story is a cast of young actors that breath freshness into their roles. Fraser is particularly good in the lead role and while he has been blasted by some for some of the films he has made he does pop up in a good role every so often and this was his first really impressive performance. Damon also gives a good performance and his character really becomes a disgusting jerk later in the film but this also marks the first film that Damon and Ben Affleck appear in together. This is a well made film with a poignant script that in it's own low key manner is quite effective in what it wants to say and the performances by these young and talented actors are all impressive.
I see this movie every once and a while on USA or TNT, I never watch all of it, but a few days ago I finally did and it was absolutely wonderful. It makes you wanna watch it again. Though some parts were slightly disturbing, the movie was still excellent. "School Ties" is set in the late 50s early 60s i do believe and a jewish kid goes to a basic prep school, all white, all Christian. He is a successful football player and makes many friends and is quite popular. But has to keep his religion in secret in fear of mockery and torment of his fellow classmates. Starring this wonderful cast, Brendan Fraser in his first major role, Matt Damon & Ben Affleck back when they were young and innocent. Before they had Oscar nominations starring in low-budget dramas. This movie is excellent, I give "School Ties" 10/10!
A brilliant 'coming-of-age' style film, in the tradition of "Dead Poet's Society". Starring a bevy of familiar faces during their up-and-coming phase: Matt Damon, Brendan Fraser, Chris O'Donnell, Cole Hauser and Amy Locane, this brilliant flick explores the challenges of a young, Jewish hopeful, David Greene (Fraser) who hides his religion from a group of bigots upon entering a prestigious preparatory school. Unaware of his identity, the students welcome him into the fold, until a prejudiced student (Damon) discloses his identity after discovering a romantic friendship developing between his own girlfriend (Amy Locane) and Greene. When one of the students cheats on his final exam - and Greene is accused - the class is requested to deliberate on a verdict, forcing them to choose between their own personal prejudices and the struggle to be impartial. Brilliantly acted and directed. Add this one to your collection!
Great drama with even greater performances from the relatively young and
unknown cast. Especially Brendan Fraser's acting is really intense. One of
his first roles, and in my opinion his best. He was not yet as famous as
is now ( after, for example, a film as 'the Mummy' ), but I think that his
acting never had the intensity and credibility of that part.(In fact, I
shocked when I discovered that it was in fact Fraser in the horrible "
George of the jungle' ! How could a fine actor like him accept such a
terrible role ? ) Also Matt Damon (also an unknown actor at that
the other young actors are great. A terrific, subtle drama
9 out of 10 !
I liked this movie the first time I watched it,which is probably why I have
watched it twice since then.Seeing future stars in a small time movie was a
bonus but it was the story that appealed to me.Anti-Semitism was once the
"in-thing",just as lynching African Americans was once accepted and
condoned.It's a sad and shameful part of our history,a part that we'd like
to forget but we most definitely shouldn't...because if we do we just might
repeat ourselves,and nobody wants to do that...do they?
I think "School Ties" gets the point across.Sure the script has its flaws,but which script doesn't?The story is an important one.Each time we watch it we"ll remember and that's a good thing,'cause we just might forget and that would be dangerous.
I watched this movie on video last night. First of all I want to say
I find it absolutely irrelevant who played the characters in the movie, all
the actors did ok (nothing special). Please don't write your reviews based
on Damon or Fraser or the co... they're not what is important about the
film. The film should make people realise what a disgusting, resentful
quality anti-semitism is, and how much jewish kids have had to suffer not
just in the 50s, but over a massive period of history. But I'm not going to
go into a history lecture.
This movie touched me as this is a very familiar topic for me. Being born part Jewish in Russia I am well aware of the blunt, dumb prejudices that surround Jewish youth throughout school years, university admittance and army years. Fraser's character was lucky, he was physically strong... Let me tell you there are very few things in this life worse than being a victim of all these prejudices.
The story line is nothing special but one characteristic of it is important and truthful - Fraser's drive to succeed. Oh sure very few Jewish kids became football stars, most of them had to be become successful through books and study, but the point is, surrounded by prejudice, ignorance and hatred, that's the only choice Jews ever had... they had to strive to be the best or they had no hope of surviving with any dignity. Hence, David Green's drive to go to Harvard had nothing in common with that of his classmates. They wanted the high-life and were pushed by their proud, arrogant parents; David saw Harvard as a way to simply survive.
Some users have commented that there are more important issues in the world than this 'minor' bigotry case. Look, does that mean every movie should be about East Timorese getting slaughtered just because it's the most important issue of the time? This movie tries to show us how dumb, ignorant and blind anti-semitism is... and believe me there have been, there are and there will be millions of Jewish kids who would relate all too well to this movie. So please, instead of talking about the 'big' actors or sub-par story-line, think about the theme and make sure you're never the one immersed in stupid ignorance.
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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