Director: Nicholas Hytner
Dakin (Dominic Cooper) is one of those attractive young men whose main flaw is that he realizes just how attractive he is to nearly everyone he meets. Using his looks for currency, he charms the socks off of faculty members, teachers and students in his 1980’s British prep school in this filmed adaptation of Alan Bennett’s Tony Award Winning play. Director Nicholas Hytner uses the same cast who played their roles to perfection during the play’s run at the National Theatre in London where Hytner is the artistic director and in between its smash success on the British stage and its American debut, he created this well-acted but admittedly slight film version. The film centers around a group of boys and their teachers all struggling with the battles of the educational system, burgeoning hormones, school politics and sexual complications while trying to prepare the lads for the admissions tests and interviews for enrollment in Oxford or Cambridge. The entire cast is uniformly excellent, most notably Richard Griffiths (himself a Tony winner) who breaks hearts with his complicated performance as a veteran teacher plagued by his desire for young men and his ambition to get his students passionately involved in the liberal arts studies while new teacher Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore) seems only interested in educating the boys to memorize statistics verbatim and take revolutionary stances on their history lessons to gain a different point-of-view that would be attractive to admissions officers solely for academic reasons. Rounding out the boy’s education are the other faculty members including the headmaster and the tough but genuine heart of the school, Mrs. Lintitt (a wonderful Frances de la Tour), all of whom enrich the film that takes a good thirty to forty-five minutes to gain viewer attention and sympathy due to a majority of unlikable characters but then manages to keep us interested up until the surprising and bittersweet conclusion that’s a bit of a shocker indeed. Filled with great 80’s music and energetic performances, the film is worth seeing for those who are unable to take in the play in New York or London but there is definitely something missing in its hurried translation.