Obviously this was inspired by the hit song by Bill Withers from the early 70s. The song has made such an enormous cultural impact since its release, mostly to help radiate positivity and inspire hope. Lean On Me is a great film (based on a true story), but of all titles in the world, I'm still questioning why they would name it Lean On Me. Yes, I know they sing it in the movie.
Morgan Freeman stars as Joe Louis Clark, who takes over New Jersey's worst school, Eastside High School. In 1987, Eastside is plagued with several things: teachers being beaten nearly to death, low test scores, dropout rates, drugs, gang violence, etc. It wasn't like 20 years earlier, as shown at the beginning of the movie where times were seemingly fine. Enter Clark, who is promoted to be principal of Eastside. But with a cost: keep the students together, turn everything around, and more importantly, raise the average test score. Or no job.
Freeman puts on a powerful performance of the strict and brutal Clark, whom the kids eventually look up to but he evidently alienates several staff and faculty as well as members of the community, even his own boss. Clark's disciplinary measures are put to the test all through the movie. He starts by putting a school group assembly, humiliating those who have put shame to the school on stage. Next comes the faculty, whom Clark reprimands. He even goes as far as to firing one of the most popular (seemingly harmless and inspirational) teachers. There is even a subplot about a boy who was expelled but begs Clark to take him back at the school, in which he agrees.
Of course, Clark's actions make the film very controversial, as these happened in real life. Some agree, though some may suggest he take the small touch route. But anyone who is up for a great story on how to make the impossible possible should definitely watch this. Freeman, as people who know me personally know, is one of my Top 5 favorite actors, and this is one of the reasons why.
This is a continuation of my Black History/Civil Rights series.
My rating: 8 out of 10