Sunday, July 24, 2016

Dead Poets Society

Dead Poets Society from 1989 holds up. It's about a new exuberant non-traditional English teacher at an uptight prep school in the late 1950s, and the group of boys who are inspired by him. They are in an uptight environment and feel anxious about grades and their future success (largely mapped out for them by their parents), and you can feel their yearning for something more. Enter Robin Williams, who breathes life and passion into their dry poetry texts. He has them shout the lines as they sprint across a field. That kind of thing. The contrast between the artistic desires he inspires in some of the boys, and their restrictive social structures leads to a tragedy. And yet the ending is heartwarming.

True, the whole thing is a bit cliche, but it works. Largely because of the warmth of the performances, the fragility of the boys, their good natured friendships, and fundamental kindness that Williams so often conveyed in his acting. It was really touching seeing so many actors -- now middle aged and well known, or in Williams' case, dead -- in their youth, just hatched. Ethan Hawke seemed painfully young. I kinda teared up just looking at him.

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