Dead Poets Society (1989)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Captain, my captain.

“Oh captain, my captain”. We’ve been hearing that quite a bit recently, haven’t we? Dead Poets Society is a movie I don’t think I really ever had the pleasure of watching. The only thing I knew about it was that phrase, along with Carpe Diem. Beyond that, I really didn’t know too much about it, and I wanted to figure out why – of all things – people chose the captain phrase when Robin Williams passed. Was it about the movie itself and his performance, or was it more? After watching, it was clear that his role created in impact on these young men’s lives – so much that it expanded. If there was ever a movie that came close to showing the effect he had on people, Dead Poets Society might just give you a glimpse.

The story revolves around an off-beat English instructor, John Keating (Williams), who believes that everyone should have a free choice in life, and to seize the day, in whatever way that meant. Every student in the film was a little different, but Keating just wanted them to follow their passions and have fun – and they met collectively in the woods – as the Dead Poets Society…where they basically just sit around and talk poetry.

To kill the mood for a second or two, I just want to say that this isn’t exactly my type of film. I understand and appreciate the values of what it was going for, but a lot of it felt boring and a little over-the-top for me. My main complaint, unfortunately, had to do with the club itself, the Dead Poets Society. The idea of the club is fine, but it shouldn’t be seen any different than any other extra-curricular activity…because it’s just about poems and poets…that’s it, and it’s treated like a secret society where they are hazing new recruits…or something. Is it because they smoke and curse in this club? Is it because they are outside and not actually in the building? I don’t know, and I certainly don’t understand what the big deal is. Maybe in the late ‘80s it was more crazy and controversial,but it didn’t seem very nuts to me.

That being said, the messages in the film are important, and it is honestly laced everywhere with these messages. Things on the topic of honor, truth, following your dreams and passions, acceptance, loyalty, and most importantly, having fun. It is just an in-depth look at the human personality in general, which is absolutely fine. They did a tremendous job portraying their very diverse characters – but in the end, it’s just coming-of-age, which I don’t care too much for. I know the same doesn’t apply to everyone, which is why my score is more effected by the confusing nature of how the club is viewed than it is about the coming-of-age film structure.

This is one of Robin Williams best films, or at least it is in a lot of people’s minds. To me, because it wasn’t my cup-o-tea, it’s far from my favorite performance of his. Because this was still early, his character had a lot of comical celebrity impersonations…which wasn’t horrible, but it was typical of Williams in his movies, and I thought the film would be more than that. When it came to really getting his students attention, he did a fantastic job. I just wish the movie had more of him than it ultimately did.

The Good:

Above all else, the many messages in this film are dealt with appropriately and in a good light. “Oh Captain, my Captain” will forever be one of the most-memorable one-liners in film, purely because of the message behind it, and the image that will forever be engrained  into our subconscious for all of space and time.

The Bad:

The Dead Poets Society in question – is a club that the students start to talk about poetry and the get the free will to be themselves. Somehow, this should-be extra curricular class is seen as something as malice and bad as a secret society with hazing rituals…or something. I don’t get what all the fuss was about. It was kids talking about poetry…how awful.

The Random:

I like the part where Robert Sean Leonard’s father tells him to quit acting and become a doctor…because he goes on to act as a doctor in House, M.D. Oh…I crack myself up.


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