2014 TCM Classic Film Festival
Interviewed by Illeana Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss spoke about the early reaction to Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995). While it’s now considered a classic, the New York critics weren’t kind. The movie eventually caught on by word-of-mouth but it would have been even bigger, Dreyfuss said, if it had screened first for its natural allies across the country, including the school music programs who ultimately embraced it.
Directed by Stephen Hereck and written by Patrick Sheane Duncan, the film takes music teacher and aspiring composer Glenn Holland (Dreyfuss) from the 1960s to the 1990s at a Oregon high school. Glenn, who raced for the parking lot at the closing bell and never had time to supervise extra-curricular activities, matures into the beloved Mr. Holland. The pathos and tugs at the heartstrings, so galling to the critics, are part of the reason the film survives. It’s one of best performances by Dreyfuss and it’s the film he’s most proud of.
Mr. Holland takes a novelistic approach, spending time with Glenn’s home life that includes a deaf son named Cole (after John Coltrane) who’ll never understand his music. Or, so he believes. Over the years, his marriage to Iris (Glenne Headley) has become routine. An affair of the heart with Rowena (Jean Louisa Kelly), a student vocalist, gives him a glimpse of what might have been and threatens to go farther. As she sings “Someone to Watch Over Me,” Glenn’s face registers his deep longing. As a gifted artist herself, Rowena understands him in a way his wife and son never will. Will he follow her and his dreams to New York? Or, will he stay with his family and fight the good fight for music education? Young Glenn would’ve jumped on that bus, but what about Mr. Holland?