Back back to the 90s we go, and we’re going back further than The Players Club, back to 1995 with Higher Learning. A classic “black” movie that explored the college/university experience for black and white Americans. With an original plot and surprisingly good acting…Higher Learning has all the makings of a great film but it slips in several areas.
The acting in this film is top notch, especially with the leads…Omar Epps makes a gripping performance as Malik Williams and Lawrence Fishburn also shines as Professor Maurice Phipps. This felt like Boyz in the Hood 2.0 because it used John Singleton’s style but included white people and their experiences with race. The plot is shaky at times but the major plot of Remy (Michael Rappaport) versus Malik was gripping and genuinely has the audience shocked, especially with the ending. This film had one of the best endings I have ever watched, the raw emotions, metaphors and life lessons stood out in this flick.
Singleton weighs too much on some white characters in this film…like Kristen Connor (Kristy Swanson) story arch seems forced and too quick. Maybe it was the producers who pushed her story but in the middle and ending of the feature you start to ask yourself “why are we focusing on her?”. Remy and his other white supremacist posse had a better story line and moved the plot forward. The lack of depth with some supporting characters was also disappointing, Deja plays a big role in this film especially near the end…why wasn’t her character explored? Why wasn’t Remy’s mental illness or disability explored? These are gaps that the filmmaker or production team should have explored. Unfortunately the sound track was not great…it was okay and that was surprising because this is a John Singleton film.
The Final Take
Higher learning had a lot of highs and sadly some major lows, is this a classic? To some. Is it worth a viewing for it’s messaging and overall take on 90s college/university culture? Absolutely. Did this movie reach it’s full potential? Absolutely not…and that is disappointing.