Lean on Me (1989)


Movie Review

Directed by: John G. Avildsen

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Beverly Todd, and Robert Guillaume

Principal Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman) has just arrived at Eastside High School, and he's taking no prisoners.  He’s been charged with getting students to perform at the minimum passing level on New Jersey’s basic skills test, a statewide assessment that is a barometer for academic achievement.  If he fails, the school will be taken into receivership by the state.  When he gets there, he shakes things up quite a bit by expelling hundreds of students who have plagued the school with drugs, abuse, and other troubles.  He fires a few teachers along the way as well.  No student or teacher is safe under the martial law of Joe Clark.  Of course, Clark’s bold actions enrage quite a few parents.  As Clark does everything he can to help the students succeed in life, his rocky relationship with their parents escalates from heated PTA meetings to tense political realities.

Morgan Freeman’s portrayal of Joe Clark in Lean on Me is one of his greatest, albeit underrated, performances on the big screen.  The legendary actor, who is more often noted for his calm demeanor and grandfatherly presence on screen, is undeniably a loose cannon in this flick.  Whether he’s wielding a bat on school grounds or giving a sermon in a PTA meeting, you can’t help but love Freeman in this movie.  The emotion and passion that he imbues into the character of Joe Clark will reel you in.  It’s no wonder that Morgan Freeman ascended to superstardom in the Hollywood ranks after this flick.  Lean on Me is a hidden gem worth your while.



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