Higher Learning

"Weak"

Higher Learning Review


I first saw John Singleton's Higher Learning when I was 17. Back in 1995, my friend and I left the theater feeling like we had seen an important commentary on American society. We felt informed.

It just goes to show you how clueless teenagers are. At 23, I rented the movie again and realized that I had no idea what the hell Singleton was talking about. Certainly, a lot of big issues are broached in the movie: racism, sexuality, democracy, college education and its value. Higher Learning poses a lot of issues, but rarely does it offer any meaningful answers.

The movie takes place at the fictional Columbus University, where we meet the world's oldest freshmen class, which includes a track star (Omar Epps); a wide-eyed innocent (Kristy Swanson); a troubled loner (Michael Rapaport) and a sensitive guy (Jason Wiles). As the first semester unravels, the students will undergo a series of emotional struggles that will change their lives forever.

The plot would all mean something if Singleton offered his characters any engaging conflicts--they all seem recycled from movies of the week. Swanson gets raped and starts hanging out with a lesbian student activist (Jennifer Connelly). Epps rants and raves about black oppression to his professor and girlfriend. In response to seemingly being insulted by Ice Cube and Busta Rhymes, Rapaport becomes a Skinhead.

And the most maddening thing is that Singleton seems reluctant to tackle the issues his characters endure. He's like a bad TV anchorman---he sticks to the highlights and avoids the background. Epps' rage is actually handled well, as he finds himself mulling different points of view. However, I'm still not sure how the campus skinheads managed to pick Rapaport out of the entire student population, or what pushed Swanson to joining Connelly's activist ways.

The one subject Singleton seems to know a lot about is that white people simply can't be trusted, which is alarming considering the movie's goal toward understanding. At least twice, white security cops assault Epps, thinking he's the suspect in a campus crime.

I'm not naïve. There are white people who are prejudiced against black people, as much as I'd like to think differently. But in Higher Learning the white characters create all the problems. They rape, they kill, they show little emotional growth. Aside from so many people from The Program having lead roles, it's probably the most distressing presence in a movie that should be more about peace, love and understanding.



Higher Learning

Facts and Figures

Run time: 127 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 11th January 1995

Box Office Worldwide: $38.3M

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Production compaines: Columbia Pictures Corporation

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Fresh: 17 Rotten: 17

IMDB: 6.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Mlik Williams, as Kristen Connor, as Remy, as Taryn, as Fudge, as Wayne, as Deja, as Scott Moss, as Professor Maurice Phipps, as Monet, as Dreads

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.