Mr. Holland's Opus Movie Review
Mr. Holland is, of all things, a lowly high school band teacher, and the film follows 30 years of his life, from 1965 to the present. Mr. Holland, in his first year of teaching, finds himself turning into that very thing which he detests, a dry and boring instructor who isn't getting through to the kids, so he decides to make a few changes in his teaching style to get the students involved and interested. Using all manner of unorthodox teaching methods, Mr. Holland eventually breaks through and becomes the darling of John F. Kennedy High School, and we see the profound effect he really does have on a number of his students.
The film is something akin to a series of vignettes, each profiling Mr. Holland's relationship with one student or another, most notably the driven yet apparently talentless Gertrude (Alicia Witt, who appears all too briefly) and vocal ingenue Rowena. All the while, Mr. Holland's own life seems to play second chair to his teaching. His own symphony goes virtually ignored, as does his family: his wife, Iris (Glenne Headly), and his deaf son, Cole.
Mr. Holland's Opus treats us to the transformation of the students without relying too much on the corny antics that similar films tend toward. Rather, the movie is filled with genuine, tearjerking emotion despite its often rambling 2 1/2 hour length, and we are constantly entertained by a number of moving performances of classic tunes and modern ones. The one over-the-top element of the picture is, of course, Dreyfuss, whose performance culminates in the singing of a heartfelt yet nearly unbearable rendition of John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy," dedicated to his estranged son. But you've gotta give him points for trying.
The integration of political messages and stock footage into the film is a bit distracting, as it is used to set the time frame and little more. But if you can get past this and let yourself slip into the web that Dreyfuss manages to weave, you'll find a heart of sincerity in this lazy, free-flowing, and only sometimes obvious picture. Be sure to bring a hanky.