How Law Can You Go

Campus movies are like typical college students; they barely find time for studying. They’re more likely to be about drugs, sex, alcohol, parties, frats, sororities, sports, soapy romances, and serial killers. So I was surprised when I saw “The Paper Chase,” which chronicles a law student’s first year in Harvard University. Hart (Timothy Bottoms), the protagonist, is a bright and likable man. On his first day of contract law, he is called by a daunting professor (John Houseman), whose talent is picking a student’s brain to death. Unprepared, Hart is frazzled but nevertheless, finds the professor fascinating and slowly strives to be in the elite group of students who bravely raise their hands.

What I liked about the movie is its sense of verisimilitude. This is the college life I know; College is a battlefield that makes high school look like a playground. Your ultimate weapon is knowledge and while you don’t fight alone, it is a reality that some comrades will fall. They say college is a time for experimentation; this may be true in social activities, but in the academic realm, the student is the experiment. Tough classes are designed to find one’s breaking point, or more likely, separate the genius from the mere humans. It’s a staggering experience, yet may end up beneficial, as long as sanity remains intact. It’s all part of diploma pursuit, or as the movie calls it, the paper chase. I hope I’m not making the film so serious. It has funny elements including the identity of Hart’s lover and his solution to escape unnerving “finals” tension in the dorm. My problem with the film is that it brought me back to college so much that I nodded off (like I’d do in class). I never took Law so some of the class discussions whisked right over me. If I had a pop-quiz on this movie, I’d possibly flunk. Would that make me a bad reviewer? Probably, since I wrote all of this at the last minute. Please don’t fail me.

Grade: B+

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