‘MY OLD SCHOOL’
Not judged. At AMC Boston Common.
What kind of documentary do you have when the person your movie is about is played by an actor who lip-syncs that person’s words? This is just one of the intriguing questions posed by “My Old School,” a movie where all the flashbacks are animated first and the animated characters are voiced by actors.
Directed by Jono McLeod (“The National Pet Service”), who was a classmate of the person “My Old School” is about, “My Old School” tells a great story about a student named Brandon Lee, an older-looking man from Canada, appearing on the steps of Glasgow’s “posh” Bearsden Academy in 1993, claims to be 16 and seeking admission. By the way, the actor Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee’s son, was murdered on the set of “The Crow” just a few months earlier.
According to Brandon, whose eerie motto is “Do the unimaginable,” his mother was a famous opera singer with whom he traveled the world. She died in a car accident that left him with scars on his face. His father, a professor in London, wanted Brandon to live with his grandmother in Bearsden, an affluent suburb of Glasgow.
Brandon is a brilliant student, determined to study medicine when he graduates Bearsden. His biology teacher repeatedly notes that he is teaching her. In the school production of “South Pacific,” Brandon plays the male lead and sings “Younger Than Springtime” well enough to make some in the audience swoon.
Brandon, who is played in filmed interviews by lip-syncing actor and Scotsman Alan Cumming, was admitted to Bearsden by the stern Ms. Holmes (voiced by pop singer Lulu in animated scenes). She helped run the school with the school’s eccentric headmaster. One of the teachers is voiced by “Gregory’s Girl” herself Clare Grogan. We hear both from the “real” physics teacher Mr. Gunn as of the animated. Brandon’s classmate Stefen, the only person of color in Bearsden, recalls how even though many of the students were racists, Brandon befriended him, brought him to his house with “Gran” for study sessions and meals, and helped him build confidence.
Though too long, “My Old School” is one of the most memorable cheat movies I’ve ever seen. It is a story about obsession, deceit, the meaning of identity and the nature of friendship. Brandon has a much better taste in music than most of his friends at school and introduces them to bands like Joy Division.
In English class, he stuns the teacher and fellow students with his analysis of ‘Death of a Salesman’. Since Brandon has access to a car, he and his friends head to Glasgow for the cinema and concerts (and bowling).
In a case of coincidence that is hard to believe, but true, Brandon’s real name is the same as that of one of his classmates, leading to severe bewilderment and the need to concentrate. In the second half of the film, we learn the true story, look at some archival footage of the so-called ‘Brandon Lee’, and see some classmates in their real-life incarnations from the 1990s. We also see some in the present.
Brandon’s deception is only discovered after he enrolls in medical school, where he falls apart and is forced to leave. It turns out that Brandon’s mother isn’t a dead opera singer. His father was not a professor in London. Brandon’s unraveling is as fascinating as his magnificent ruse. Stay tuned to hear Lulu’s awesome cover of Steely Dan’s “My Old School” during the credits.
“My Old School” contains adult themes.