A man who loves music becomes a teacher to provide for his family while working on his own composition in “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” During that time, he never becomes the famous musician he intended to be, but still has an amazing musical legacy that he never realized. It’s a wonderful tale of how one man can have an impact even if it’s not in the way he expected.
Richard Dreyfus was nominated for the best actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Mr. Holland and he definitely deserved it. He perfectly encapsulates the role of the reluctant teacher who finds a way to share his passion with the kids he teaches. Unfortunately, he ends up neglecting his own son in the process, because his son is mostly deaf and he doesn’t understand how to share his passion with a deaf child.
Outside of Dreyfus’ Oscar nominated performance, several big name stars appear in this film helping it along the way. Olympia Dukakis is amazing as the principal who hires Dreyfus, and is willing to support him if he can justify his teaching methods. William H. Macy plays the perfect foil for Holland. At the beginning of the film, he’s the assistant principal morally opposed to Holland’s use of rock and roll to teach the kids. When he succeeds Dukakis’ character as principal, he’s always at odds with Holland, and the other teachers of performing arts, because of budgetary constraints. In the end, it’s the decision of Macy’s character that ends Holland’s teaching career, but when Holland’s former students finally play his original piece, you can tell while Macy’s character may not have agreed with Holland’s methods, he respected his talents. And, Glenne Headley shines as Holland’s wife who supports his ambitions but is wary of how much he’s neglecting his own son for his students.
This film is an excellent representation of the impact a teacher can have on a child. He finds a way to encourage his students to follow their passions whether that be music or something else. One of his students heads to New York to try her hand at show business. Another becomes the Governor of Oregon. Looking back, I bet every person has that teacher that had that kind of impact on them whether the teacher or the pupil realized it or not.
Objectively speaking, this is a wonderful movie that I would recommend for anyone looking to watch an inspirational tale. But, subjectively speaking, I’ll probably never watch it again. There’s a scene where Holland and his wife are arguing about the best course of action for their mostly deaf son. The line Glenne Headley, as Iris Holland, delivers about wanting to be able to talk to her son hit a little too close to home. My youngest son is nonverbal and I would love for him to be able to talk to me. I had to shut off the film for a little while because that scene resonated a little too much. If you’re in a similar situation to mine, it might not be the best idea to watch this film, or at least that scene. If not, definitely give this a watch.
Ranking: 4.5 stars out of 5
What did you think of “Mr. Holland’s Opus?”