Old School Ignorance
I remember watching "School Ties" when it first came out and it blew me away partly because in look it was similar to "Dead Poet's Society" but also because it had exciting performances from a group of young stars. Ever since then I have never missed the chance to watch it when it is shown on TV but as I have grown so has the movie as the depth of the story presents itself much more to me now than it did the first time. I say all this because "School Ties" is the sort of movie which might attract a new audience to watch because of who is it in as we have Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Chris O'Donnell amongst many other well known faces but it is a movie which also has more to offer than these young stars all delivering powerful performances from a time before they were stars.
The heads at St. Matthew's Academy are tired of losing to their rivals on the football field that is why the coach has arranged for David Greene (Brendan Fraser - The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) to join the school for the final year as he is a star Quarterback. But as they arrive at the school he advises David to keep things close to his chest as David is Jewish and it won't go down well with the rich kids who drop racist jokes without even noticing. It makes it tough For David as he has to endure them using racism in their casual talk whilst he also finds it tough trying to keep his faith whilst keeping up everything else. David is not the only one with issues as 'Mack' McGivern (Andrew Lowery) is failing French and unless he gets a high enough grade he wont get into Princeton and will be a failure to his parents and there is Charlie Dillon (Matt Damon - The Adjustment Bureau) having been the quarterback feels the pressure to please his parents even if it means bringing dishonour to the school.
There are two stories running through "School Ties" with the central one being that of Jewish racism as we watch David having to deny who he is to deal with what he faces. Now I am not just on about blatant racism, that comes at the start of the movie when a biker purposefully antagonizes David to get him to fight. Nope the focus is on the subtler racism where certain phrases are used in every day speak with none of the users really aware how racist they are such as using the phrase "I Jewed him down". But this also runs side by side with David trying to keep his religion close to his chest in order to fit in and keep his opportunities open. The way all of this is done isn't very subtle but then in many ways it can't be as if it was subtle it wouldn't be able to make the point it does so well.
But alongside that we also have the parental pressure that these third generation rich kids feel to live up to their family standards and be successful. It never distracts from the movie main focus but then provides the depth for when the two sides coming crashing together as Charlie feels the pressure put on him by his parents and a jealousy towards David for getting not only his position in the team but also his girl.
What makes this well thought out drama work is not just the writing but also Robert Mandel's direction which not only recreates a bygone era but does so with just the right amount of humour to stop it from being too heavy. But we also have the huge amount of young talent which is lead by Brendan Fraser and Matt Damon and they all deliver hungry performances, convincing as young men facing all sorts of pressure and ignorance.
What this all boils down to is that "School Ties" was and still is a pretty decent movie which not only highlights the racism of a bygone era but also the pressure on the privileged kids of an elite school to keep up family traditions.