The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Director: Ronald Neame
Year Released: 1969
Rating: 3.5

Sly drama that would make an intriguing double-bill with Dead Poets Society - particularly for those that like both sides of the story - as a 'beloved' progressive teacher, revered by her students and prized pets, is revealed to be misleading, contemptible and intellectually fraudulent, so that the individuals who at first appeared to be 'conservative' villains don't seem so off-base by the end. Maggie Smith - an admixture of Joan Rivers and Katharine Hepburn with a pinch of Julie Child - believes she's aiding her students with her idiosyncratic teaching method, but her elitist 'truth' and real world 'expertise' is fashionably ignorant - she supports Mussolini and his fascists not to mention Franco, remaining naïve as to the particulars - and she even forces her impressionable young girls to hang around a lustful painter as a 'substitute' for her own 'virginal' self (Brodie asserts that she's in her 'prime' - sexually and mentally - but the forced suppression of her physical needs manifests itself strangely in her skewed, almost Nietzsche-esque belief system). The film runs the risk of overstating its points a little too often, but the basic message is something to deeply consider: perhaps eccentric elders who take you off the beaten path and claim to have your best interests at heart (with their lofty ideals and unworldly thinking) may actually be a severe harm, and that a 'unique' education that strays from the base curriculum is not the blessing some may think.