9 April 1999 | Marco_Trevisiol
stands the test of time
Considering what this film was about I was quite surprised how well the film and its ideology stand up today.
There are several reasons why. Firstly, the film doesn't present the student establishment as 100% right and the establishment/teachers as 100% wrong. This is because the film's central character Harry Bailey is presented as belonging somewhere in the middle. On one hand he's dismayed by the establishment's inabilities to understand what the students actually want but on the other hand he's dispirited by the students protesting on frivolous issues as well as a hint of double standards within the movement.
A good example of this is the character of Dr. Wilhunt who opposes Harry's move into teaching. While portrayed in the wrong, he's not a one-dimensional monster but someone who is realistic about how much a teacher can change students' morals while teaching english grammar.
In fact it's Harry's friend, hippie Nick Philbert, who brings him down when after attempting to avoid the draft, he joins the Marines and turns into a moralistic, gung-ho youth. Only at the end of the film does Harry realise what an unworthy, crazy person he is. It could've been easy for the film to make Dr. Wilhunt as the one who brings Harry down but it avoids the easy path and shows us that there are untrustworthy people everywhere in society whether they be young, old, conservative or radical.
Then there is the character of Harry Bailey who's in virtually every scene in the film. Again the film doesn't portray him as some flawless character who fights against the conservative establishment for noble causes. Instead we get someone who's intelligent, compassionate and idealistic but who also has traits of selfishness and foolishness. That he's a realistic, believeable, flawed but likeable person helps the film immesuarably. A lot of this credit must go to Elliott Gould who's excellent in the role.
Special note must be of the direction and cinematography which make the film look both stylish and fluid.Particularly impressive is the use of focussing on more then one object or character in the same shot as it's cleverly used to make points about events or people in narrational terms instead of words.
All in all a superb film and especially so when compared to another student film of the same era, the inept RPM.