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School Ties Review

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A Jewish boy starts at an elite prep-school only to discover he should keep his Jewish beliefs from his schoolmates for fear of rejection. Unfortunately it's not long before one of the boy's finds out and uses it as a way of making his life miserable.

★★★★★

Mention the words Prep, School and Drama in the same sentence and shivers shoot down the spines of large portions of the adult population, so riddled with cliche is the dreaded setting filmmakers flock to whenever they want to say something important about rites of passage for the white American male. Add in the spectre of anti-Jewish bigotry and the stomach churns, which makes it all the more refreshing to discover this is not an oppressive 100-minute sermon, but a modest and genuinely affecting drama touching on issues of loyalty, friendship and, yes, prejudice.

With a bruising send-off from the local leather toughs, star quarterback David Greene (Fraser) goes from being the only Jew in a small Pennsylvania steel town to being the only Jew at an elite New England prep school where he has been recruited by the old guard alumni to prevent a third straight defeat at the hands of their arch-rivals. Encouraged by coach to keep his Judaism to himself, Greene finds himself accepted into the school's illustrious inner circle, then bites his lip and hides his Star of David when his cloistered schoolboy cronies wheel out the Jewish wisecracks. Before Greene's secret is exposed by a jealous rival and the whole plot boils down to code of honour style guff, this flogs a dead; horse already severely pulverised by the Dead Poets-style storylin: the student who cracks under the pressure; the weekend dance with the girls' school across the road, etc.

Inherently trite though it may be, this nonetheless excels at exposing the thoughtless ignorance that lies at the heart of racism and at showing just how far people will go, no matter what the cost to themselves, to fit in with their peers.

With differences in religion at the core of this movie, it's heart is in the right place, but sadly it doesn't do the material any justice with director who's previous work was F/X. The boys put in fine performances but sadly the script lacks the depth of what could have been a challenging story.

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