School Ties

1992 Directed by Robert Mandel. Starring Brendan Fraser, Chris O'Donnell, Matt Damon, Andrew Lowery, Cole Hauser.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 18, 1992

In a Hollywood powerscape where so many of the key players come from Jewish backgrounds, it's rather peculiar that there have been so few films dealing with the issue of anti-Semitism. Director Robert Mandel (Taps, F/X) tackles this loaded subject head-on and comes up with a film that, while well-done and skillfully played, nonetheless comes across as oddly unaffecting. School Ties wants very much to be the crowd-pleasing, prep-school, period piece that Dead Poets Society was, yet when combined with the sincerity necessitated by the subject matter, it overpowers the audience in its attempt to do both and ultimately ends up as neither. Brendan Fraser (Encino Man) is David Greene, a young Jewish kid from Scranton, Pennsylvania, who is recruited by a fine New England preparatory academy to serve as their star quarterback. During his first meeting with his new classmates, none of whom are aware of his religious background, he hears them make a few topical Jewish slurs and, worried what they may think of him, decides to keep his faith a secret for the time being. Naturally, before too long, his secret is out; one of the most affecting scenes in the film occurs when David enters his dorm room one evening to find a sheet tacked above his bed with a swastika and the message “Go Home Jew” painted on it. Fraser handles the role of David well enough -- he's certainly got the seething part down right -- but something fundamental in his performance fails to ring true. In light of all we know about his character, it's hard to believe this kid would ever have been able to stomach the thought of closeting his heritage away for mere acceptance by wealthy preppies. By the end of the film, when David is framed by another student nearly caught cheating on an honor test, the whole story begins to feel contrived. Mandel and producer Sherry Lansing have obviously put their whole into the creation of what ought to have been a riveting and powerful film. Instead, School Ties ends up about as memorable as a plate of gefilte fish.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Brendan Fraser Films
The Whale
Brendan Fraser anchors Aronofsky's meditation on faith and fatness

Jenny Nulf, Dec. 23, 2022

Gimme Shelter
Vanessa Hudgeons stars in this bland exercise in very serious and meaningful young-adult drama.

Louis Black, Jan. 24, 2014

More by Marc Savlov
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
The Prince is dead, long live the Prince

Aug. 7, 2022

Green Ghost and the Masters of the Stone
Texas-made luchadores-meets-wire fu playful adventure

April 29, 2022


School Ties, Robert Mandel, Brendan Fraser, Chris O'Donnell, Matt Damon, Andrew Lowery, Cole Hauser

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle