|Mr. Holland's Opus|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Stephen Herek|
|Produced by||Ted Field|
Robert W. Cort
Patrick Sheane Duncan
|Written by||Patrick Sheane Duncan|
|Music by||Michael Kamen|
|Edited by||Trudy Ship|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
American Sign Language
Mr. Holland's Opus is a 1995 American drama film directed by Stephen Herek, produced by Ted Field, Robert W. Cort, and Michael Nolin, and written by Patrick Sheane Duncan. The film stars Richard Dreyfuss in the title role of Glenn Holland, a high-school music teacher who aspires to write his own composition while struggling with a lack of quality time with his wife and profoundly deaf son. The cast also includes Glenne Headly, Olympia Dukakis, William H. Macy, and Jay Thomas.
The film was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay. Richard Dreyfuss received nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama and the Academy Award for Best Actor.
In Portland, Oregon in 1965, 30-year-old Glenn Holland is a talented musician and composer who has been relatively successful in the exhausting life of a professional musical performer. However, in an attempt to enjoy more free time with his young wife, Iris, and to enable him to compose a piece of orchestral music, Holland accepts a teaching position at John F. Kennedy High School.
Unfortunately for Holland, he is soon forced to realize that his position as a music teacher makes him a marginalized figure in the faculty's hierarchy. Many of his colleagues, and some in Kennedy High's administration, including the school's vice principal Gene Wolters, resent Holland and question the value and importance of music education given the school's strained budget. However, he quickly begins to win many of his colleagues over, including Principal Helen Jacobs and football coach Bill Meister. Holland finds success using rock and roll as a way to make classical music more accessible to his students.
Holland's lack of quality time with Iris becomes problematic when their son Coltrane (Cole) is found to be deaf. Holland reacts with hostility to the news that he can never teach the joys of music to his own child. Iris willingly learns American Sign Language to communicate with her son, but Holland resists. This causes further estrangement within his family.
One of his drum students joins the Army and is killed in Vietnam. A military funeral is held for him. As the years progress, Holland grows closer to his students at Kennedy High and more distant from his own son. He addresses a series of challenges created by people who are either hesitant or hostile towards the concept of musical excellence within the walls of the average American high school. He inspires numerous students, but never has private time for himself or his family, delaying the completion of his own orchestral composition. Eventually, he reaches an age when it is too late to have a realistic chance of finding financial backing, or ever having it performed.
In 1995, the adversaries of the Kennedy High music program win a decisive institutional victory. Wolters, now promoted to principal, faces budget cuts from the board of education. He responds by eliminating music, as well as art and drama, from the school curriculum, leading to Holland's early retirement. Holland realizes that his career in music is likely over, thinking that his former students have mostly forgotten him and is dejected at his failure ever to have his composition, which he views as his life's work, performed.
On his final day as a teacher, the 60-year-old Holland enters the school auditorium to see that, hearing that their beloved teacher is retiring, hundreds of his former students have secretly returned to the school to celebrate his career.
Holland's orchestral piece, never before heard in public, has been put before the musicians by his wife and son. One of his most musically challenged students, Gertrude Lang, now the Governor of Oregon, takes the podium and explains to Holland that the symphony he wrote is not his only legacy: it also includes the people he has inspired and taught, all of the people he has helped to make a better person. Lang then sits among the musicians, drawn from Holland's students over the decades, with her clarinet, but not before asking Holland to step up on stage and serve as their conductor for the premiere performance of Mr. Holland's Opus ("An American Symphony"). A proud Iris and Cole look on, appreciating the affection and respect that Holland receives.
- Richard Dreyfuss as Glenn Holland
- Glenne Headly as Iris Holland
- Jay Thomas as Bill Meister
- Olympia Dukakis as Principal Helen Jacobs
- William H. Macy as Vice Principal (later Principal) Gene Wolters
- Jean Louisa Kelly as Rowena Morgan
- Alicia Witt as younger Gertrude Lang
- Joanna Gleason as Older, Governor Gertrude Lang
- Damon Whitaker as Bobby Tidd
- Terrence Howard as Louis Russ
- Alexandra Boyd as Sarah Olmstead
- Nicholas John Renner as Coltrane "Cole" Holland (age 6)
- Joseph Anderson as Coltrane "Cole" Holland (age 15)
- Anthony Natale as Coltrane "Cole" Holland (age 28)
- Beth Maitland as Deaf School Principal
- Balthazar Getty as Stadler
The movie was written by Patrick Sheane Duncan, directed by Stephen Herek, and was filmed in and around Portland, Oregon, with many exterior and interior scenes taking place at Ulysses S. Grant High School. Other scenes were filmed in Portland's St. Johns neighborhood and Hollywood District.
Archival footage seen in the film includes:
- Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech
- Robert and John F. Kennedy
- Vietnam War
- Richard Nixon's resignation speech
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show
- Saturday Night Fever
- Stop Making Sense
- Death of John Lennon
- Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park
The film features an orchestral score by Michael Kamen and many pieces of classical music. Kamen also wrote An American Symphony ("Mr. Holland's Opus"), the work on which Mr. Holland is shown working throughout the movie. Kamen's arrangement won the 1997 Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement.
Two soundtrack albums were released for this film in January 1996. One is the original motion picture score, and includes all of the original music written for the film by Michael Kamen. The second album is a collection of popular music featured in the film:
- "Visions of a Sunset" – Shawn Stockman (of Boyz II Men)
- "1-2-3" – Len Barry
- "A Lover's Concerto" – The Toys
- "Keep On Running" – Spencer Davis Group
- "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" – Stevie Wonder
- "Imagine" – John Lennon
- "The Pretender" – Jackson Browne
- "Someone to Watch Over Me" – Julia Fordham
- "I Got a Woman" – Ray Charles
- "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)" – John Lennon
- "Cole's Song" – Julian Lennon and Tim Renwick
- An American Symphony ("Mr. Holland's Opus") – London Metropolitan Orchestra and Michael Kamen
In the United States, gross domestic takings totaled US$82,569,971. International takings are estimated at US$23,700,000, for a gross worldwide takings of $106,269,971. Rental totals reached $36,550,000 in the US. Although the film is included among 1995 box-office releases (it ranks as the 14th-most successful film of that year), it was only released in a few theatres in New York and Los Angeles on December 29, 1995, because Disney felt, accurately, that Richard Dreyfuss' performance had a good chance of getting an Oscar nomination if it beat that year's in-theatre deadline.
The film holds a 75% "Fresh" rating from 28 reviews at Rotten Tomatoes. The site's consensus states: "A feel-good story brought to life by a terrific ensemble cast, Mr. Holland's Opus plucks the heartstrings without shame -- and with undeniable skill." CinemaScore reported that audiences gave the film a rare "A+" grade. The New York Times film review cited Dreyfuss for "a warm and really touching performance"; Variety also called his performance "quite effective and surprisingly restrained". Variety further noted the "nostalgic aura" that permeates the film, "which encourages viewers to think fondly of — and pay tribute to — the one teacher in their lives who made a difference". Roger Ebert gave the film 3 1/2 out of 4 stars, commending its starring and supporting casts and agreeing with the film's message of the ability of high school teachers to inspire their students, as well as the importance of cultural offerings on the curriculum.
Writer Patrick Sheane Duncan was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay at the 53rd Golden Globe Awards. Dreyfuss was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in this list:
The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation
- "Mr. Holland's Opus - PowerGrid". thewrap.com. Archived from the original on 2016-03-13. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
- "Mr. Holland's Opus (1995)". The New York Times.
- Mr. Holland's Opus on IMDb
- "Field Marshal". Newsweek. Retrieved 2010-12-22.
- Mr. Holland's Opus at Rotten Tomatoes
- McClintock, Pamela (August 19, 2011). "Why CinemaScore Matters for Box Office". CinemaScore. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
- Maslin, Janet (January 19, 1996). "FILM REVIEW; A Teacher Who Once Had Dreams". The New York Times. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
- Levy, Emanuel (December 31, 1995). "Mr. Holland's Opus". Variety. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
- "Mr. Holland's Opus". rogerebert.com. January 19, 1995. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-14.
- Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation
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