Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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School Ties

Film #143


A Jewish boy goes to an elite prep school in the 1950’s and hides his religion until a jealous bigot forces it out in the open.

Year 1, Day 143

BEFORE: A few connections can be made to today’s film, School Ties. First is from yesterday’s Team America: World Police where Matt Damon was impersonated and now stars today. Second, I actually learned about this film from my Intercultural Communications class which showed a clip highlighting the differences in religion in the film. And third is just something I found very interesting: the film is written in part by Dick Wolf who is better known as the creator of the Law & Order franchise which has been on the air since 1990 and has aired almost 1,000 episodes (none of which I’ve seen; only clips).

AFTER: Many times throughout School Ties I was reminded of Dead Poets Society. Both films are about prep schools with strict rules and one of the teens stands out from the others and does something “wrong” but in reality is just different from what is expected of them. For good measure there is also the love interest which isn’t introduced until quite a ways into the film and then subsequently vanishes, never to be seen again, before the ending.

Dead Poets Society is a fantastic film and one of my favorites. School Ties, which was made three years afterward, is very similar yet different at the same time. In School Ties, there really isn’t an overseeing adult (Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society) but instead focuses more on the students. I feel if School Ties had that character it would be the same film so it was a good choice to change up a bit. Focusing on the students and viewing everything through their eyes, as opposed to somethings through adults, was an interesting perspective that I think worked well for the most part. However, something felt missing. Robin Williams tied the story together in Dead Poets Society and made it feel complete. School Ties almost gets to that sense of wholeness, that the story is complete, with the hearing at the end but I still left with a feeling as if something was missing.

I’m using Dead Poets Society here as a basis for discussion and not as a grounds for judgement. School Ties succeeds, and doesn’t in some ways, by it’s own merits and is still a great film even if Dead Poets Society did not exist. Both films just happen to be quite similar and I felt one could not be discussed without the other. Barring a few minor flaws in plot (I really think the love interest could have been handled better) School Ties is a should-see film. As far mid-20th century prep school dramas are concerned (a very broad genre I know), Dead Poets Society is the leader in the category and a must-see whereas School Ties is merely a should-see film due to a few minor flaws in plot (I really think the love interest, the French professor, and the History professor all could have been handled better). But seriously, if you like one, you’ll probably like the other.

RATING: 4 out of 5