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School Ties

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PG-13
1992

School Ties is a powerful drama directed by Robert Mandel in 1992 that explores the pervasiveness of prejudice in American society, set against the backdrop of a prestigious preparatory school in the 1950s. Led by an ensemble cast of up-and-coming talent of the time that included Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon, and Chris O'Donnell, the film has since been recognized for its dramatic depth and complex character portrayals.

The story centers on David Greene, a gifted football player, brilliantly portrayed by Brendan Fraser. David, a working-class Jewish teenager from Scranton, Pennsylvania, is given a golden opportunity to exchange his conventional life pathways for an elite world that is typically out of his reach. When the prestigious St. Matthews Preparatory school in New England offers him a scholarship, it is intended to boost their failing football team performance, but David sees it as a chance to seek a brighter future.

Arriving at his new school, David enters a world that is vastly different from his own. St. Matthews is an institution steeped in privilege, filled with blue-blooded, old-money students. With each character, played by the likes of Matt Damon as preppy Charlie Dillon and Chris O'Donnell as meek Chris Reece, we see a different facet of privilege and the corrosion that accompanies this class's unearned entitlement.

David gains instant popularity due to his sporting prowess, developing new friendships, and even piquing the interest of a love interest. He becomes a star on the football field and a favored student among his peers. However, he soon realizes that this acceptance is precariously built on a foundation of deception; his classmates do not know about his Jewish heritage. To them, he is one amongst them - a WASP, a member of upper-class white America.

The narrative is tightly wound around David's battle to conceal his cultural identity and his personal struggle with ethics and integrity. Meanwhile, the movie offers a hard-hitting and detailed critique of anti-Semitism and the cruel ignorance that accompanies it. As the film progresses, David's hidden secret becomes the elephant in the room, and tensions start to rise. The relationship of David with his roommates, friends, and the school faculty showcases the subtle and overt prejudice against his religion.

It's not only the performance of Brendan Fraser as the morally steadfast David that shines; Matt Damon's portrayal of Charlie, David's roommate and main antagonist, whose resentment boils over into outright hostility and prejudice, is remarkably striking as well, indicating his future success in the industry. Chris O'Donnell serves well as Chris Reece, showcasing the struggle between peer pressure and doing what's right.

Adding to the resounding performances is the film's well-researched look at the period's costume and set designs that evoke a believable 1950s boarding school experience. Moreover, the beautifully captured landscapes of the New England setting establish an ideal contrast to the darker themes of the movie, with its green fields and historical architecture embodying the establishment's upper crust.

School Ties masterfully combines a coming-of-age film, a school-based drama, and a profound social commentary. It illuminates the damaging consequences of prejudice, bigotry, and entitlement within the closed environment of a high school. It challenges its audience to question whether hiding one's identity to gain acceptance is a price worth paying or is one better off maintaining one's integrity and facing discrimination. At the core, it is about making the right choices when presented with adversity and standing up against injustice, even when it comes at a high personal cost.

The film may be set in the 1950s, but the problems and themes it confronts are timeless, making this movie relevant for contemporary audiences as well. It is an emotionally charged depiction of the societal prejudice nestled within privileged institutions. A haunting reminder that, beneath the seeming excellence of elite schools and the affluence of its students, lies a toxic culture which, instead of promoting tolerance and unity, breeds division and bias.

In conclusion, School Ties is not just a movie about a class conflict or a fight against discrimination alone; it is an exploration of personal values, choices, integrity, and the courage to stand up against the establishment when it forgets its core principle of promoting equality and respect for all.

School Ties is a Drama movie released in 1992. It has a runtime of 106 min.. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 6.9. It also holds a MetaScore of 65.

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6.9/10
65/100
Director
Robert Mandel
Stars
Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon, Chris O'Donnell, Randall Batinkoff, Andrew Lowery, Cole Hauser, Anthony Rapp, Ben Affleck
Genres
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