- Movie Rating -

Teachers (1984)

| October 5, 1984

Teachers, from high school on down, are an interesting lot.  They are a mixture of people who are either staunchly professional, dedicated to molding young minds or people who are worn down and simply function until they can retire or transfer.  That, at least, was the way that I saw it during my formative years.  For me, the most intriguing teachers were those whose youth goals obviously got sidetracked and so they were stuck in the day-to-day grind under an indifferent administration that expects them to educate a bunch of ill-mannered free range brats who have long since ceased to listen to them.

I would like to see a movie about those people, a real movie, because Teachers wants to illustrate the educational system mostly in terms of a studio marketing department that is shopping a pilot for a new television series.  There is very little real life in this movie, it’s pieces and parts based on what the audience might expect.

The movie takes place at John F. Kennedy High School in Columbus, Ohio, an institution where there is never a boring day because chaos is part of the daily routine.  Drug dealers roam the hallways as frequently as the narcs, students assault each other with knives, and there’s at least one teacher who spends every class period asleep behind a newspaper.  Added to that, the school is being sued because a student was allowed to graduate despite the fact that he was illiterate.

I could imagine that in a real American high school such events would be cause for the administration to swoop in and have an investigation.  People would be fired, certainly some people would be arrested and none of these things would all converge on a single day.

The faculty is at wit’s end, particularly Roger Rubell (Judd Hirsh) the assistant principal, and Dr. Donna Burke (Lee Grant) the bull-headed school superintendent.  But the central focus of the movie is a burned-out Social Studies teacher named Alex Jurel who is cynical about his job but he is popular at the school because he gets along with the students.  At present, he is trying to make a deal with a wisecracking con artist named Eddie (Ralph Macchio) who has just stolen a car from another teacher.

Nothing – and I mean nothing – in his movie would happen for real without some kind of legal intervention or massive scandal.  How about the lawsuit?  Maybe Jurel’s attempts to help a frightened student (Laura Dern) get an abortion after she has a sexual encounter with a teacher.  Maybe the special ed kid (Crispin Glover) who is shot in the hallway by the cops when he pulls a weapon out of his locker?  Maybe that stupid stunt where a fellow teacher (JoBeth Williams) takes off her clothes in the middle of the corridor as a stunt to prove that Jurell should remain a teacher.  How embarrassing.  The problem is that whatever ground is gained in the movie with any heart or any truth is undermined by these stupid stunts that drag the movie out of reality and into some kind of weird sitcom.  It’s like the filmmakers are afraid to make a film that the audience will recognized from life and not from television.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1984) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy, Drama