Higher Learning

Gwyneth Paltrow

Directed by John Singleton
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 0
Community: star rating
5 0 0
January 11, 1995

John Singleton gets the '95 movie season off to a bold start by writing and directing an unapologetically confrontational film that uses a fictional campus, Columbus University, to represent the racial and sexual powder keg of America. It's a mammoth undertaking, and Singleton (Boyz n the Hood, Poetic Justice) can't begin to weave the disparate elements of his tragic fable into a coherent whole. Higher Learning is often clichéd, unfocused and didactic. But Singleton has a goal most of his contemporaries have given up on: He wants to make a movie that makes a difference.

Blacks, whites, Asians and Latins converge on this campus. At the center is Malik Williams (Omar Epps), a black track star who thinks that running is all the university wants or expects of him. His girlfriend, Deja (model Tyra Banks), tries to tell him differently. So does Professor Phipps (the excellent Laurence Fishburne), who goads him to study. Activist student Fudge (Ice Cube) pushes him to stand up for the brothers. Malik's confusion intensifies when his roommate, Remy, (Michael Rapaport), a misfit from Idaho, links up with neo-Nazi skinheads and sparks a violent climax involving Kristen Connor (Kristy Swanson), a white freshman who didn't expect her curriculum to include date rape, lesbian passes from Taryn (Jennifer Connelly) and a racially motivated shootout.

Compelling questions of identity are being addressed that you won't find on Beverly Hills, 90210. Singleton feels for these students — Epps and Rapaport make singularly strong impressions. Higher Learning is seriously intended and seriously flawed. Singleton tends to shout his objectives. But in an era of cop-out escapism, it is gratifying to find a filmmaker who is spoiling to be heard.

Movie Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Whoomp! (There It Is)”

    Tag Team | 1993

    Cecil Glenn — a.k.a., "D.C." — was a cook at Magic City, a nude dance club in Atlanta, when he first heard women shout "Whoomp — there it is!" Inspired by the party chant, he and partner Steve "Roll'n" Gibson wrote a song around it. Undaunted by label rejections, they borrowed $2,500 from Glenn's parents and pressed 800 singles, which quickly sold out in the Atlanta area. A record deal came soon after. Glenn said the song was meant for positive partying. "If you're going to say 'Whoomp there it is,' and you're doing something negative, we'd rather it not have come out of your mouth."

    More Song Stories entries »