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Laramie Movie Scope:
Mister Holland's Opus

A must see for teachers and students

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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March 15, 1996 -- ``Mr. Holland's Opus'' is a film that every teacher and every student ought to see.

The film stars Richard Dreyfuss as a reluctant music teacher. It is about the small triumphs and tragedies of everyday life. Unlike ``Dangerous Minds,'' it isn't about a sudden idea that changes juvenile delinquents into eager scholars. It is about the long haul. The day to day struggle to make ends meet, to inspire students, to pursue personal goals and balance that against the needs of a family.

This is one of the best films of the year. Dreyfuss, who was nominated for a best actor Oscar for his performance, deserves to win it. There are plenty of other fine performances in the film, including Glenne Headly as Iris Holland, Olympia Dukakis as the school principal, Jay Thomas as the football coach, W.H. Macy as the vice principal and Jean Louisa Kelly (best known for her MCI commercials) as promising student Rowena Morgan. She also does her own singing in the part.

There aren't many good films currently that concern themselves with decent people dealing honestly with the life's tough choices. The screenplay by Patrick Sheane Duncan does a great job of hitting those problems head on. The only time he cheats is when he gets on the ``fund the arts'' kick. Anyone who hear Dreyfuss' Grammy Awards speech on this subject knows he wasn't acting when he attacked the school board on that issue in the film.

Holland begins his career as a teacher hoping to make enough money so he can devote his time to composing music. To him it is just another ``gig,'' like playing at a piano bar. But soon he becomes hooked on teaching and sees his composing time decrease alarmingly. After 30 years, he finds both the rewards and sorrows of teaching are beyond anything he imagined when he started.

The film not only depicts the rewards and pitfalls of teaching, it also conveys the joy of music. It also deals with Holland's troubled relationship with his deaf son, Cole, and it deals with the terrible loses of young lives in the Vietnam war.

This film rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)