School Ties

A working-class Jew from Scranton (Brendan Fraser) gets a football scholarship to an exclusive boys school in rural Massachusetts in 1955, and finds himself confronted by anti-Semitism. Produced by the calculating and often ideologically crass Sherry Lansing and Stanley R. Jaffe (Fatal Attraction, Black Rain, The Accused), and directed by Robert Mandel from a script by Dick Wolf and Darryl Ponicsan, this is a bewildering mixture of fairly accomplished storytelling (I enjoyed it more than Dead Poets Society, which isn’t saying a lot), awkward contrivances in the script, and lies in the overall conception so egregious they undercut any pretensions the film might have to social seriousness. By far the worst of these lies is the notion that being Jewish at an expensive prep school is difficult in a way being working-class is not. (The film tells us again and again, with a kind of compulsion that seems demented, that class bias is not only inconsequential and unrelated to prejudice but nonexistent.) With Chris O’Donnell, Andrew Lowery, Matt Damon, Randall Batinkoff, Amy Locane, Peter Donat, Ed Lauter, and Kevin Tighe. (JR)

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