With Eyes Unclouded – Dangerous Minds

11 Jun

Dangerous Minds was recorded on DVR so I must say that I didn’t really see the movie properly. I missed the start and there were commercials and all the swear words were dubbed over. Maybe the scenes that were cutout for the commercials would have made a difference, I don’t know.

Disclaimer aside, this is a movie that I felt had a very strong beginning and a predictable and weak ending. The story involves Michelle Pfeiffer (who is great) as a young teacher looking for a job. I missed the start so I’m not sure how, but she ends up at this school applying for a part-time substitute job and ends up with a full-time teaching job at “the Academy program” a “school within a school” for the “special” children. If only it were as good as Brookline’s actual School Within A School.

Turns out she’s been hired to teach a group of seemingly unruly kids from poor homes, bad neighborhoods, and violent homes, etc. Short of calling her “white bread” they ignore her when she first walks in, opting instead to continue dancing, talking, drumming on desks, being loud and unruly, etc.

At this point in the movie the problem is that I know exactly what happens next. This underestimated small woman is going to succeed against seemingly great odds. She will inspire these kids, change their lives, the audience is going to feel good about it and the potential of humanity, etc. That the movie doesn’t deviate at all from this old formula is the biggest weakness I think. It tries to. It puts in some tragedy. It tries to make us think that the poor small underestimated teacher, despite making great headway by bribing the children and using Bob Dylan songs as poetry, is going to give up. Yet I never really thought she was going to because, well, it’s a movie.

When the kids start to bluntly state out loud what should be subtext by saying things like “we come from poor neighborhoods,” and “you don’t understand our world,” I begin to see through the already paper-thin premise to the underlying underdog-makes-us-feel-good structure. It’s not a bad exercise in a movie, but it isn’t a great one either.

I guess that’s why it’s as remembered as it is, or isn’t. I remember it being talked about a lot when it was out, when Coolio’s song was on the radio, Michelle Pfeiffer was famous, etc. It was perceived as a really important movie at the time. I’d forgotten the movie existed until it showed up on TV and my DVR recorded it.

If you want to see a movie with this plot structure I enjoyed Stand and Deliver more (Lean on Me is another one, but I don’t remember it as well).

[Previous With Eyes Unclouded: Into The Wild]

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