Mr. Holland's Opus
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the film includes a lengthy subplot involving Mr. Holland's crush on one of his students. Although he does not act on his feelings, Mr. Holland condones her plan to skip town before high school graduation. Beyond this, there is little for parents to worry about. Cole calls Mr. Holland an a-hole in sign language. Mr. Holland and Iris have a brief discussion about sex. Two male students briefly walk in front of the camera holding hands.
What's the story?
In MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS, Richard Dreyfuss plays Glenn Holland, a young, aspiring, composer and musician who takes a position teaching a high school music class in hopes of saving enough money to play as a career. When Glenn's wife (Glenne Headly) unexpectedly gets pregnant, reality sets in. He must put his dreams on hold and remain a teacher indefinitely. Over time, Glenn finds that he enjoys teaching and being a father. His worst fear is realized, however, when he learns that his son is deaf. Unable to accept his son's disability, Holland throws himself into his work, preferring to connect with his students instead of his own family. Eventually, Holland comes around, acknowledging his faults, and makes amends by designing a concert that both hearing and non-hearing audience members can enjoy. In the film's highly emotional climax, Glenn finally grasps the magnitude of his influence, as three generations of former students come together to honor him.
Is it any good?
Less Stand and Deliver, more It's a Wonderful Life, Mr. Holland's Opus offers a poignant (albeit sappy) look at personal sacrifice, responsibility, and the impact teachers can have on students beyond the classroom. Richard Dreyfuss gives the performance of his career as the wily, often frustrated Glenn Holland, breathing life into a character that could easily have fallen into caricature territory.
The film as a whole is not perfect. In its effort to portray Glenn as a flawed individual, the lengthy script sometimes goes too far, especially in regard to his inappropriate relationship with a student and his blatant disregard of Cole's social development. Despite these imperfections the movie is definitely worth watching, particularly during those moments of inspiration when Holland discovers his love of teaching.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about coping with disability, teachers who make a difference, and the importance of arts and music education. They can also discuss important events in history as they take place in the film, such as the death of a student in Vietnam and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and John Lennon. Why does Mr. Holland react so severely when John Lennon dies? Is there a musician or music group that you feel that strongly about? In the film, Mr. Holland suggests that the roots of rock music lie in classical music. Parents may discuss with their kids how music from their generation has influenced current popular music. What do bands/musicians like The Strokes, Black Eyed Peas, and Kanye West have in common with The Kinks, Sly and the Family Stone, and Marvin Gaye?