For some reason, this was always a movie I liked to watch in the summer time. Maybe it’s because I first saw it around then. Or maybe it’s because I’ve always had an affinity for the environment in which it portrays (which it ironically, casts in a generally negative light).
The film, starring Branden Fraser (something of an upcoming star at the time, 1992, also someone I’ve been told I sort of look like) depicts David Green, a working class Jewish boy from Scranton, PA. Mired in a stereotypical mid-50’s Rust Belt, dead-end, industrial ‘burg’, Green doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of opportunity ahead of him. But don’t worry, because it just so happens (something always just so happens in films such as these) that he has social charm, popularity, good looks, and athletic ability on his side. Naturally, St. Matthew’s, an elite Ivy League preparatory school, has chosen him to play quarterback for their football team. Alright! (so remember, if you’re from Scranton, PA in the mid 50’s, and don’t have any of those characteristics, too bad for you! Or is it? Remember, the period between WWII and the early 1970’s in the US wasn’t all that bad a time to be blue collar compared to other periods).
Anyway, Green gets confronted by his Scranton archenemy (about whom we are revealed almost nothing other than his name, Kocus). But Green beats him up, double yay, he can fight too! He then he says goodbye to his many friends, his noble peasant family and heads off to Massachusetts to start his new life.
I should have mentioned, as this part has just a bit of significance: Green goes into the school intending to conceal the fact that he will be the only Jewish boy there.
When he arrives, he realises this school is like absolutely nothing he’s ever seen in his life. Green has never “summered”, he probably didn’t know at the time what it means to be a “legacy”, and his only ancestral portrait may have been a half worn, 6 inch Daguerreotype of great uncle Harvey from Philly. He wasn’t “one of them”. Nonetheless he fits in quite easily because he’s likable and his abilities make him valuable to the football team, the alumni of which have put down some big money in order to beat a rival school.
It’s a win win situation for both sides. He gets to attend an elite school, be the star football player, and quite possibly go to Harvard. The old money kids, many of whom are quite insecure about living up to their family names, get to see the merits of individual achievement and declare the American dream alive and well. This rings especially true for multi-generational Harvard legacy, Charlie Dillon (Matt Damon).
Of course, Green’s still hiding a secret, which proves detrimental to his popularity when the other students find out…
This movie is basically the underrated, lesser known version of Dead Poets Society (which some alleged it ripped off). It gives you about as good a glimpse into the “Old Boys” culture as you’re going to get from a 1992 movie full of anachronisms. It also has quite a few other upcoming stars, Chris O’Donnell, Amy Locane, Ben Affleck, and Cole Hauser to name a few.
I’d like to write a few more entries about this movie in the next few days.