Sunday, September 10, 2006

Dead Poets Society (1989)

Phony and obvious from scene one, this boarding-school bore means well but never catches the kind of fire needed to transcend its morass of cliches. Individual scenes and performances work well -- Robert Sean Leonard does well by underplaying scenes that could become big'n'blowsy, particularly the first confrontation with his stock-issue tyrannical father, played with typical reserved menace by Clarence Boddicker himself, Kurtwood Smith, and Ethan Hawke's big poetry-slam scene is a nice bit of well-judged feelgood -- but the screenplay is a pathetic pile of inspiricrap, and thus suspect. Furthermore, because everything needs to be just so for its grand ending, where the audience is supposed to leave with tears in their eyes and swelling in their hearts, the characters are made to behave less like characters and more like clockwork trains. (If you look closely, you can even see the tracks.) I suppose there's an irony in a film that advocates individuality and 'doing your own thing' being so completely unoriginal.

Grade: C


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