School Ties (1992)

Directed by Robert Mandel
Written by Dick Wolf & Darryl Ponicsan

This was an interesting addition to the marathon because not only had I never heard about it, but it has four recognizable names in it: Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Chris O’Donnell. Fraser plays David Greene, a star quarterback from a blue collar town in Pennslyvania who is recruited to play his senior year of high school at the prestigious Massachusetts St. Matthew’s Academy, a bridge to Harvard. What makes this film relevant is the fact that Greene is a Jew. Once there, Greene begins to fit in, but decides to hide his Judaism when he hears an anti-Semite joke the first night he is there. His plan: to just survive his senior year and make it to Harvard. He makes great friendships with his roommate (O’Donnell) and fellow football players, principally Dillon (Damon). The boys struggle through French class and it all builds up to the big rivalry game against St. Luke’s. After that is when it all starts to come apart.

There is romance in the air as well as Greene begins to woo Dillon’s childhood friend (who he thinks is his girl, but she doesn’t). The main conflict, as a result is between these two boys. It all started when Greene was brought on to play quarterback, Dillon’s former position. Add on the issue of the girl, Sally (Amy Locane), and the cheating incident at the end of the film and what you have is a bona-fide rivalry between a Jew and a frustrated anti-Semite. The execution of the film is quite effective. It invokes the right amount of hate and sympathy towards the issues at hand and in that respect it hits its goal. As for everything else, supremely average. The acting by the yet unknown cast is good, but not great, and the direction and cinematography are good enough to supplement the story that is being told.

It has been interesting in this marathon viewing the films from the perspective I have been, but in this case I really noticed it. I am sitting there, concentrating on finding things that will be of benefit to my paper and my study and meanwhile I am not viewing the film as a movie watcher as much. As a result my perception I feel is a bit off, with this one especially. It is difficult to judge how much I liked it. As I said, the story and impact of the film is achieved, but apart from that I didn’t find myself caring much for most of the characters, though I could sympathize with the difficulties of a preparatory school student. I liked the film, I appreciated it, but I can tell you right now that it was nothing special and nothing to write home about. I would only recommend it if you are a fan of these now famous actors or if you are genuinely interested in the subject matter. Otherwise I would say that you can skip this and you won’t miss anything special.

Commentary on Anti-Semitism

Much like Gentleman’s Agreement, the idea becomes what changed when we found out he was Jewish? Everything was fine, Greene was popular, made great friends, everyone liked him, and then all of a sudden he is a Jew and people hate him. It is an interesting phenomenon to say the least. There are also plenty of stereotyping going on among the jokes and comments that the people make throughout. There is even a sense, again like Gentleman’s Agreement, that it is okay that Greene is a Jew, but certain people don’t want to be associated with him now. I think this will go well with Gentleman’s Agreement in my paper.

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