"Mr. Holland's Opus" is the story of a musician whose passion in life is to compose great music. But in order to provide for his wife and son, Glenn Holland must take a post as a high school music teacher, which is seemingly the last thing he ever wanted to do. In the thirty-year period of which this story takes place (mid-1960s to mid-1990s), Mr. Holland discovers through his struggles, little by little, student by student, that he indeed has what it takes to become a great teacher and mentor. He applies the entire history of music ("from Beethoven to Billie Holiday to rock-and-roll," as he expresses it) in order to help his students learn to appreciate what music is and what it has to offer to the world. Of course, Mr. Holland faces some hard challenges along the way, namely the fact that his numerous teaching responsibilities take him away from giving his son, who has a ninety-percent hearing loss, the attention he desires. In the end, when all of the arts programs get dropped from the school curricula, Mr. Holland believes that all of his teaching efforts have been for nothing. It is then, and only then, that he realizes how much of an impact he has actually made on the entire community.
The casting of "Mr. Holland's Opus" is terrific. Richard Dreyfuss was THE actor for the leading role of struggling music teacher Glenn Holland, who experiences life with all of its joys and sorrows through music. Glenne Headly is wonderful as Mr. Holland's loving, reasoning, understanding wife Iris. I highly admire Jay Thomas as phys ed teacher Bill Meister, who strikes up a lifetime friendship with Glenn right at the start of Glenn's teaching career. Not to mention Olympia Dukakis in her top-notch portrayal of principal Helen Jacobs, William H. Macy as vice principal Gene Wolters, Alicia Witt as struggling clarinet student Gertrude Lang, Jean Louisa Kelly as the lovely soprano Rowena Morgan, and Terrence Howard as athletic star/drumming novice Louis Russ.
Here are my personal favorite scenes from this heartwarming film. Mr. Holland shows his first signs of success when he convinces the self-conscious Gertrude Lang that playing music is meant to be enjoyable and is "not about notes on a page"; with this in mind, Gertrude shuns her music stand, closes her eyes, and "plays the sunset" on her clarinet. Until Rowena Morgan makes her first appearance, the various singers who audition for the upcoming Gershwin revue prove themselves amusing in their interpretations of "I Got Rhythm". A tense moment in the Hollands' household occurs when their little boy Cole, deaf and with virtually no communication skills, has difficulty showing his mother what he wants from the cupboard. Rowena sings a beautiful version of "Someone to Watch over Me", with the orchestra conducted by Mr. Holland, on the last night of the Gershwin revue. Shortly after learning that his son is deaf, Mr. Holland is almost in tears as he describes to his music appreciation class the agony of Beethoven's deafness. Following the assassination of musician John Lennon, Mr. Holland sings a nicely orchestrated version of Lennon's "Beautiful Boy" and dedicates it to his own son Cole, now a teenager (Joseph Anderson); from then on, Glenn shares a much greater rapport with the forgiving Cole. And finally, Mr. Holland cannot fight back the tears at his high school's surprise celebration of his thirty years as the music teacher; his former student Gertrude Lang, now a governor (Joanna Gleason), makes him aware of all the lives he has touched: "We are your symphony, Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus, and we are the music of your life."
"Mr. Holland's Opus" is a film that I believe offers hope to the many people in this world who are forced to take day jobs for which they have no high regard. As this movie progresses, we come to understand how fortunate Glenn Holland's students are to have him for their music teacher.
6 out of 6 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.