Glenn Holland is a musician and composer who takes a teaching job to pay the rent while, in his 'spare time', he can strive to achieve his true goal - compose one memorable piece of music to leave his mark on the world. As Holland discovers 'Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans' and as the years unfold the joy of sharing his contagious passion for music with his students becomes his new definition of success.Written by
"Life is what happens when you're making other plans"
This is a line of the Beatles' song that Mr. Holland sings to his son, Cole, at a concert. I've seen this movie plenty of times, but for the first time, I noticed just how well this line resonates in this movie. In fact, this line is the basis for the movie, and could stand in for the whole movie in a pinch- except that we would be missing out on one of the most moving and inspirational films to come out of Hollywood in the past few years.
Mr. Holland's Opus is the story of a man who loves music, who practically lives and breathes music. We see at the beginning of the film, and throughout the rest of it, a man who is most passionate when he is within music. When his wife informs him that she is pregnant, he likens the feeling to falling in love with John Coltrane's music. When a student complains to him that he knows everything there is to know about music, Mr. Holland responds by reminding him that the name of his class is Music Appreciation and explaining forcefully that it doesn't matter how much you know about music if you don't appreciate it.
The movie takes Mr. Holland through three decades- from the '60s to the mid-'90s. In the spirit of nostalgia films like Forrest Gump, we are guided through the decades by vignettes of archive footage depicting scenes such as Nixon announcing his resignation, Gerald Ford tripping down the stairs, and even good old Frankenfurter representing the sexual revolution. As a piece of nostalgia for those times and the days of high school, Mr. Holland's Opus works great. As a chronicle of a man's life and the impact he has on others, it works even better.
This film could have turned into cheap schmaltz, but through its cast and a story that reaches wonderful poignancy and honesty at times, it manages to represent something so much more than that. Richard Dreyfuss, always a natural actor, is perfectly real and moving as Glenn Holland. I can't describe his performance in words, simply because it deserves to be seen more than just written about. And even though this is basically Dreyfuss's movie, the supporting cast makes an impression as well. Glenne Headly, as Mr. Holland's wife, shows tremendous resilience and emotion as the mother of a disabled child. When she explodes at her husband because of his lack of understanding, you explode with her, because we believe every word she is saying.
I don't know if movies can change lives. I think some have the potential to. I know there are movies that can inspire their audiences to be better people- It's a Wonderful Life is one; Casablanca is another. While Mr. Holland's Opus does not reach the quality that those two do (and who can blame it?), it has a similar and near equal impact, and that is definitely a compliment. And how perfect- a movie about a man who changes lives that can also change lives.
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