In my book there are about five political films (as of this writing) that I revere as the best that I've ever seen (and though some may argue with my choice, don't forget that I have not seen every political film ever made). One of those five is Kieth Gordon's, The Chocolate War. Actually, I found myself watching this film when searching out titles starring Ilan Mitchell Smith who portrays Wyatt Donnelly in Weird Science. And, I walked away being a new fan of Keith Gordon-directed films. (For those of you who don't recognize the name, Keith played the lead in John Carpenter's Christine). His talents as a director far exceed his acting abilities. And, for those of you who have enjoyed the Chocolate War, I recommend watching Gordon's film from the early '90s drama, A Midnight Clear, another adaptation. I never got through the Chocolate War on the first try. It was a little too gloomy for my liking. But after a full viewing on the second try, I came to love this film. It's based on the fantastic Robert Cormier novel of the same title, which was once censored reading for some public schools. It is a nearly word-for-word adaptation, but has a different ending. Mitchell-Smith portrays Jerry Renault, a student at a private all boy's school. The acting headmaster, played the very excellent John Glover, decides that because the school is running out of money, they will hold a chocolate sale to boost the revenues. Renault doesn't want to participate, for his own reasons. But, he's the only one. And before Renault's influence can spread to the rest of the boys and cost the school their needed profits, the headmaster employs the services of a vindictive and influential secret society at the school known as The Vigils, headed by Archie (Wally Ward). Thus, the test comes down to this: in the face of intimidation, who will break? Filmed on what looked like the dreariest days in Washington state, this is a very gloomy movie, but nonetheless presents a powerful psychological study of what people will do under pressure when alone or when in groups. I thought everyone in the movie did a fantastic job (and surprise--nearly everyone--except for maybe Adam Baldwin--looked like they were actually high schoolers). Like other commentors have posted, it is not your usual feel good eighties fun fest. Gordon changes the ending, but does not make it a happy-ending. Instead, the vicious cycle of inhumane power-wielding structures continue to exist, but in hero-less manner different than imagined by Cormier (as it had to be, since Cormier developed a sequel to the book). It is one of the most intelligent political films and well worth watching.
The Chocolate War
The Chocolate War
A surreal portrait of a Catholic Private School and its hierarchy. A new student must submit to the bizarre rituals of his peers and the expectations of the school's administration by ...
March 21, 2020