Dead Poets Society
Runtime: 2 hr 8 min
MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Peter Weir
Starring: Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke
Still has the power to inspire.
Review by: MiamiMovieCritic
Added: 8 years ago
Often dismissed as a shameless piece of adolescent pandering, Peter Weir's Dead Poets Society still has the power to inspire 20 years after its release.
Tom Schulman's Oscar-winning screenplay focuses on a group of boys and their English professor at the prestigious Welton Academy in Vermont. Todd (Ethan Hawke) is the shy new kid in school. Neil (Robert Sean Leonard) is his more outgoing roommate who nevertheless lives under the shadow of his domineering father (a pre-That '70s Show Kurtwood Smith). Charlie (Gale Hansen) is the ringleader who doesn't seem to care whether or not he gets expelled. And Knox (Josh Charles) is a hopeless romantic who's fallen for the unattainable girl at the local high school.
They're all guided along the path of life by John Keating (Robin Williams), the new English professor who takes an unconventional approach to his lectures. Some have sneered that Keating's lessons amount to teaching the boys to stand on their desks, but I don't think the movie can be so easily dismissed. Keating's plea for the boys to "seize the day, to make their lives extraordinary" is something that all adolescents want to hear. The movie is correct, too – the boys only have a finite amount of time to "gather ye rosebuds while ye may" before their lives become ordinary.
Williams' performance in this film is still his best. Keating will be a defeated – perhaps even a lost – man by the final scene, and Williams' delivery of the line "Thank you, boys" is note-perfect. That final scene still stands as one of the greatest of all time, moving you on a gut level that's difficult to explain. I think it's mostly because of Todd's character, and Hawke's extraordinary portrayal. This remains one of the best films of the 1980s.