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Mr. Holland's Opus

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Sentimentality, on the other hand, had a lot to do with Richard Dreyfuss’ nod for Mr. Holland’s Opus — the fondness of the movie industry for a survivor. Then, too, an actor aging over the course of a 30-year narrative tends to make the Academy gush like a schoolgirl. And Opus is one smart hankie wringer: If you’ve ever liked a teacher — if you’ve ever been to high school — this movie’s for you.

The movie sits squarely in the tradition of It’s a Wonderful Life: a tour of one man’s small town existence in which he and we come to understand how many lives he has touched. In Glenn Holland, a fussy young composer who finds his true calling as a music instructor, Dreyfuss has a role that plays to his hambone-common man strengths; if this isn’t his most nuanced performance (that can be found in 1974’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz), it may be his most emblematic.

If you’re in a cynical frame of mind, Opus is mile-high bourgeois corn — a 140-minute Hallmark card extolling the virtues of selflessness. The tribulations Mr. Holland faces are cast in irony of the Chips or The Color Purple). And Opus is one smart lowest-common-denominator hankie wringer: If you’ve ever liked a teacher — if you’ve ever been to high school — this movie’s for you. Dreyfuss is certainly in his hambone-common man element as Glenn Holland, a fussy young composer who finds his true calling as a music instructor. If this isn’t his most nuanced performance (that’s probably still 1974’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz) it may be his most emblematic.

If you’re in a cynical frame of mind, Opus is like mile-high bourgeois corn — a 140-minute Hallmark card extolling the virtues of selflessness. Yet it’s exactly the sort of middlebrow fare that Hollywood desperately needs to produce more of — something to fill the gap between overstuffed action movies and more thoughtful independent films. Clearly, American moviegoers think so: That Opus came out of nowhere to make more than $80 million in theaters may be proof that black sheep are as popular with audiences as they are Oscar. B

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