Review of Dead Poets Society
- Setting and time.
- Dilemmas to overcome.
- Meeting Mr. Keating being the catalyst for change to come.
II. Factors that qualify Dead Poets Society to be considered an entertaining movie.
- Fairly strong cast.
- Believable and grabbing plot.
- Argument against negative movie review by others.
- Slight bits of humor.
- Attempts at incorporating a hint of romance.
- Opinion on why it will always be relevant. There will always be young people that feel they need to act a certain way and then for some, a person or series of events that can remind them to think outside the box and make attempts at originality.
- State main idea again.
- Ask if it makes a difference or leaves any kind of mark.
A Review of Dead Poets Society
The setting of the movie is the year 1959 at Welton Academy, a fictitious preparatory high school for boys in Vermont. Welton Academy has traditions that are deeply rooted in the school’s way of life. The traditions are so deeply rooted that no one dares question them. This sets the stage for the movie’s main theme of non-conformism. The story directs almost all attention on members of one of the classes in Welton Academy who, like everyone else, are at the school because their parents put them there against their wishes to instill a sense of discipline in them. In addition to being forced to attend Welton Academy, they are made to conform to the traditions of the school without any objections. School life doesn’t particularly thrill the boys and just when it seems like the boys have no option but to put up with their predicament, they come across Mr. Keating, their new English teacher. Using unconventional teaching methods with a strong focus on poetry and literature, Mr. Keating introduces them to a completely new approach to life; one that the boys may not have expected to stumble upon in their lives at the school.
Poignancy, relevance, humor, romance, strong plot, and believable characters: Such ingredients can make a difference between boring & drab existences to interesting and thought-provoking results. These are qualities that make life colorful and almost immune to withering from boredom. These same attributes are also important to a movie. Dead Poets Society, built with these bones of foundation, is a diamond among glass; a truly wonderful film.
The first aspect of the movie that entitles it a top ranking is the movie’s characters. The characters in this film are all fairly believable and seemingly lead average lives. I find this to be relatable for many people in that they feel they have to act a certain way; a way that dictates who they are and not the other way around. The movie is not a wild flight of the imagination and is accessible enough in that sense.
Setting the story in a school environment may seem like it could alienate those who’ve not been to school, but I think it still works. It’s a good age for exploration and could be important for younger people looking up, and older people searching for youthful clarity. Looking past the delivery platform to the heart of the film solidifies this. The point here is to challenge authority and the rules if they seem stale or unjust. To not lend oneself to the life habits of a sheep is poignant to anyone who’s alive, thereby allowing this film to work.
Another ingredient that makes Dead Poets Society a wonderful movie is its plot. The story is largely seen through the eyes of two roommates in the school; Todd Anderson, played by Ethan Hawke, and Neil Perry, played by Robert Sean Leonard. Todd and Neil are members of a class which gets a new English teacher. Played by Robin Williams, Mr. John Keating breaks norms by teaching students against the very traditions that Welton Academy is well known for. It takes guts for someone, especially a Welton grad, to ignore those traditions. The stage is set for drama and several declarations of independence as Mr. Keating sails against the tides with the aim of ‘freeing’ his students from the bondage of conformism.
Some might say that Robin Williams’ performance was, while restrained compared to his typical stand-up personality, still a bit too manic. Roger Ebert particularly comes to mind as a person who calls him out on this: He says, “For much of the time, Williams does a good job of playing an intelligent, quick-witted, well-read young man, but there are scenes in which his stage persona punctures the character…” as though it’s a bad thing for the movie. I personally do not see that being a deterrent. Just because Keating is intelligent and well-read, doesn’t mean he can’t be a little zany. He’s all the more effective that way. Isn’t the whole point that he’s not a boring and conforming robot of a teacher?
Also often mentioned is the fact that Williams isn’t in the movie as much as a leading role should be. I suspect that was the point. Ebert calls him a “plot device.” Whether or not a person will perceive that as a good or bad thing is up to them, but I didn’t think that was an issue. The point seems to be more how the boys develop and grow, than how much screen time they share with Williams. The character Williams plays is the influence of the idea or the “plot device” of his character.
For any movie to be considered as one of the best in any classification, it must be entertaining. Humor and romance are two important spices that can help to make any work of art entertaining. Dead Poetry Society has humor and small tints of “romance,” though not very prominently, concerning the latter. In a particular instance, the film incorporates both in a situation involving Knox Overstreet, the romantic face of the movie. Knox falls for a girl known as Chris. To the slight amusement of the movie’s audience, Knox goes to the lengths of writing a poem, which receives the praise of Mr. Keating, in hopes of trying to woo her. Following Keating’s favorite mantra “Carpe Diem”, Knox takes a chance with the poem by reciting it in front of her class instead of holding it all in. Her response was nothing “But, I did it,” says Knox to a friend who asks about the outcome. Moments like this solidify the boys’ connection and faith in Mr. Keating and allow the audience to further relate to these characters.
If a movie is to stand the test of time and be ranked amongst the best of the century, then it has to be relevant to life at the time when the movie was set, when it was released, and later when the movie is being reviewed and ranked. Dead Poets Society addresses the issues of breaking barriers and seeking one’s own destiny. These issues are still pertinent to life as it is today and one does not get a feeling that the movie has been overtaken by current events. I find it still completely relevant to college students, and any other adult or person trying to be an individual and not just part of the flock.
Perhaps the most important question to consider when deciding whether a work of art such as a movie is any good is whether the movie leaves any impact in the lives of people. Dead Poets Society is a powerful and inspirational story with a moral behind it. It dares people to stand firm with what they believe and to never be afraid of asking “Why?”
Ebert, Roger. “Dead Poets Society.” Roger Ebert: Movie Reviews. 9 June 1989. Web. 22 February 2011