Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995) – Encore Review

“Playing music is supposed to be fun. It’s about heart, it’s about feelings, moving people, and something beautiful, and it’s not about notes on a page. I can teach you notes on a page, I can’t teach you that other stuff.” – Glenn Holland

Number of Times Seen – at least 10 times (Theater in ’95, video, DVD, 9 Jan 2001, 19 Mar 2014 and 20 Jul 2017)

Link to original reviewHere

Brief Synopsis – A musician takes on a job teaching while trying to start a family without suspecting the life it will lead to.

My Take on it – I was recently asked to write a review of a movie that I believe is a “Feel good” film for and I must say, it wasn’t an easy task picking just one film to discuss.

After considering and discarding so many options, I finally settled on the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995), which is among my favorite movies and IMHO is the best film of 1995.

The film is an emotional roller-coaster because it is able to make us hit so many emotional notes along the way.

The idea to make a fictional “biography” of a musician turned teacher as his life proceeds from the mid-1960’s until the mid-1990’s is a great one because who among us hasn’t been affected in one way or another by an inspirational teacher.

This time, we get to see the whole thing from a teacher’s perspective which is quite a clever way to tell this kind of story because the material is extremely relateable to just about everyone yet we all are familiar with seeing it from the pupil’s side and not the teacher’s.

I originally saw this film when it came out in 1995 and I was only 21 at the time, so over the years since, I have come to appreciate the perspective of the teacher much more since the main character must deal with students but also the ever changing world around him; both within his own home and outside of it.

Richard Dreyfuss is a great choice to play the lead character of Glenn Holland and is near perfect in each of the various stages of life depicted here.

He deserving was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor for this role but somehow lost to Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas (1995).  [I’m still baffled even after 22 years that Cage beat not only Dreyfuss but also Anthony Hopkins in Nixon (1995), Sean Penn in Dead Man Walking (1995) and Massimo Troisi for Il Postino (1994) since any of the others would have been a better choice.]

IMHO, this is one of the best fictional “biographies” ever filmed because they take their time in each of the various “stations” to help us understand the character and even more importantly, the affect he has on everyone around him during that particular part of the story.

None of these vignettes feel drawn out or cut short and they give us just enough time in each of them to learn something new about his life.

I must admit tho, that they could have added a little bit more information in some of them to give us an even more complete vision of that particular chapter in his life and it only would have benefited more with a bit more detail.

Besides Dreyfuss, the rest of the cast is superbly chosen and help us feel even more about everything that is happening.

Glenne Headly, Olympia Dukakis, Jay Thomas, William H. Macy, Alicia Witt, Terrance Howard, Jean Louisa Kelly and Balthazar Getty are all wonderful in their respective parts without fear that they would steal any of the spotlight from Dreyfuss’ lead.

The soundtrack is amazing and is filled with some of the best songs from the 60’s. 70’s, 80’s and even the 90’s which helps keep things in their perspective time frame.

Composer Michael Kamen accentuates it all with his score which speaks so much about what one can accumulate and accomplish during a lifetime.

The ending and the concert scene are both equally emotional and I always cry tears of joy and happiness whenever I watch both of them.

All in all, this is a film that always gives me so much hope because like a large jigsaw puzzle, sometimes in life, we only see each piece on their own, but once we have the opportunity to view all of the pieces put together, we can easily see how astounding an accomplishment it has been to work on it no matter how many frustrating moments we have endured or needed to overcome along the way.

Bottom Line – Such an amazingly emotional film because it is so relateable to just about everyone. Dreyfuss is wonderful and is able to play the character perfectly during all the years depicted.  Amazing soundtrack that is accentuated by the superb score by Kamen.  Stands quite tall among the many fictional biographies ever filmed because it spends just enough time at each station to help us understand the character and more importantly his affect on those around him. Quite emotional end that always makes me cry tears of joy.  Since we get to know the character so well over thirty years, each vignette doesn’t feel drawn out and in some instances, it might have helped if they had expanded some of them even more.  The supporting cast is superb with Headly, Dukakis, Thomas, Macy, Witt, Howard, Kelly and Getty all giving us great performances without taking away any of the spotlight for the story itself. Highly Highly Recommended!

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia –  Composer Michael Kamen was so inspired by the story told in this film that he started a non-profit organization dedicated to providing musical instruments to underprivileged students. (From IMDB)

Rating – Oscar Worthy (no change from original review)


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12 thoughts on “Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995) – Encore Review

  1. I haven’t seen this film as many times as you have – I saw it in the theater when it was originally released – and own it on DVD and have watched a few times on cable TV – but like you – it struck a chord (see what I did there) with me on my first viewing and has maintained a soft spot ever since. It is a wonderfully moving and uplifting and inspirational story. Well played by all involved. When I recently read about the death of Gleanne Headly – this was the first film of hers that popped into my head. She was so touching as Mr. Holland’s wife – both for their relationship and her relationship with their deaf son, as well as her touching reactions to realizing that something is going on with one of his students – Rowena Morgan – with whom I also fell in love for her voice and everything else. It made his choice so heart-breaking (that scene where she’s waiting for him at the bus station) – because watching it all – I honestly didn’t know who I wanted him to choose. BTW – you may have Julia-Louis Dreyfuss on the mind – but for someone who’s seen the film so many times – you need to get the name right. The actress who played Rowena is Jean Louisa Kelly, not Julia Louise Kelly.

    I might also have mentioned the (un-nominated) screenwriter – Patrick Sheane Duncan – who also wrote “Courage Under Fire” the following year – with Meg Ryan, Matt Damon and Denzel Washington.

    Finally – as per the Oscars – as I’ve said many times – they are never the be all and end all of what is Best in any given year. Oftimes, they don’t even get the nominations right much less the eventual winners. But you also need to be as objective as possible – and try to distance yourself from personal choice, i.e. – a film or performance that was YOUR personal favorite – which tends to cloud your view of every other nominee – and puts blinders on you. Dreyfuss was excellent – as were the other 4 nominees in the Best Actor category that year – and that omits others who gave Oscar worthy performances (IMO) that year – and weren’t even nominated – no Best Actors from Apollo 13, Mel Gibson in Braveheart, Morgan Freeman in Se7en, Robert Downey, Jr. in Restoration, Liam Neeson in Rob Roy.

    Troisi died a few days after Il Postino wrapped shooting and was nominated posthumously. Sean Penn was superb in Dead Man Walking (for which his co-star, Susan Sarandon won Best Actress). But give Nicholas Cage some credit. I’ve seen a lot of drunks portrayed on screen (and some of them – like Ray Milland for “The Lost Weekend” have also won Oscars) – and he took it to a whole other level. To say any of the other 4 would’ve been a better choice is a bit of an overreach. There are years when 2 or 3 in any given category can be deemed on equal footing – and it comes down to the wire. Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw and what year you’re nominated. Lawrence of Arabia (Peter O’Toole) lost to Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) in 1962. Was Peck head and shoulders better than O’Toole. Not a chance. So other factors came into play. But they were equally deserving. Bad luck for O’Toole – who went on to be the most nominated NON-winner in Academy history.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fixed the typo. tnx

      btw, seeing the movie so many times means i know who rowena is, not necessarily the actresses name 🙂

      i rewatched llv two years ago and hated it. yes, there r some great other options that weren’t nominated that year.

      always appreciate u stopping by and commenting


      • Leaving Las Vegas is NOT fun to watch. I grant you that. It is dark and depressing. Unrelentingly so. Hating it is your right. But there is also a level of separation between the subject matter and the quality of the story being told. You can hate the story, but be impressed by the story-telling of it. Just as you can despise Nic Cage’s character in the movie (I did – I was working out there at the time – and all the Hollywood scenes with him self-destructing made me cringe and left me with a knot in my stomach) – but be impressed by his acting the character. I’d much rather re-watch Mr. Holland’s Opus (which I have) than to have another go round with Leaving Las Vegas (which I don’t think I’ve ever seen again all the way through), but that has more to do with the message of each respective film rather than the subjective qualities each displays. Also, you said the 2nd time you watched LLV – you “…hated it”, you didn’t say you hated Nic’s performance in it. There are layers to everything. My original post was meant to focus only on your remark that Cage (in your opinion) would’ve run a distant 5th behind the other 4 nominees that year. On that – we will agree to disagree.


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