Follow TV Tropes


Film / Stand and Deliver

Go To

Stand and Deliver is a 1988 American drama film directed and cowritten by Ramón Menéndez, starring Edward James Olmos, Lou Diamond Phillips, Estelle Harris, Rosanna DeSoto, and Andy García.

The film is based on the true story of the late Jaime Escalante (Olmos), a Bolivian-American computer technician who became a math teacher at an Inner City School in East Los Angeles to save the students from gang violence, drugs, and the like.

Hailed to this day as a classic, the film was added to the National Film Registry in 2011. Olmos received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance.

This film contains examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: After the crack Angel makes (see False Confession and Tension-Cutting Laughter below), Ramirez tries to keep a straight face, but even he smiles and lets out a chuckle.
  • Badass Bookworm: Escalante's whole class, but especially Escalante himself.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Ramirez starts out calm when addressing Escalante's stern concerns, but once pestered by Escalante finally snaps and turns into a Large Ham. "No one has the right to accuse me of racism!"
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Quarter of all dialogues are in Spanish, with no translation, subtitles or context.
  • Brass Balls: Angel flashing a tattoo on his knuckles that reads "FUCK YOU" to school district officials.
  • Catchphrase: "My name is Jaime Escalante."
  • Character Development: Escalante gradually gets more loving for his students, and Angel abandons his past of gang violence and becomes an excelling student.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The mistake 0 to π over 2. During a practice of this question, which takes place before Escalante's heart attack, everyone got the same wrong answer, this would later come back to be the reason for the accusation of them cheating. Escalante argues that this doesn't automatically mean they cheated, just that they were taught the same way of working problems out.
  • Cool Teacher: Jaime Escalante is self-confident, witty, and assertive, even though he looks like a loser. He's also something of a Stern Teacher and has high expectations, though this is what his students need at the beginning of the year.
  • Covers Always Lie: The DVD cover of the film might lead you to think that Angel Guzman, Lou Diamond Phillips's character, is the protagonist of the movie (he's the big center picture and sort of hard to miss), when he's only part of an ensemble of students taught by Escalante.
  • Determinator: Escalante, after being hospitalized for a heart attack and denied to continue working, writes class notes on paper napkins and has a nurse smuggle them to his students so they can continue studying despite the incompetent substitute teacher. The students themselves go from barely understanding freshman-level algebra to passing an AP calculus exam twice, despite gang violence, institutional racism, self-doubt, poverty, and in some cases sexism.
  • A Dog Ate My Homework: A goat is mentioned in a variation.
  • Dramatization/Artistic License:
    • In Real Life, Escalante didn't start teaching AP Calculus until his fourth year at the school (1978), and the events in the film (especially the accusations of cheating) are based on Escalante's fourth year teaching the course (1982). Further, only twelve of Escalante's fifteen students accused of cheating retook the exam. All of them did pass, though.
    • In Real Life, Escalante suffered a gallbladder inflammation, not a heart attack.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: An In-Universe example; Escalante makes fun of a female student who's suffering personal problems, and she calls him out on it.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Early in the film, during a teachers' conference, the beleaguered teachers respond to their students' poor performance by accepting defeat, claiming that they're doing all they can. Jaime immediately raises his hand and asserts that he could do more.
  • False Confession: When one of the more vulnerable students begins to cry under interrogation by ETS investigators, Angel confesses to cheating. Specifically, he stole the test from the mailman and then strangled him. Angels tops this off by giving the location of the body: "He's decomposing in my locker."
  • Five-Token Band: Subverted; all of the students are Latino.
  • Flipping the Bird: Chuco (a Maravilla gang member) does this to Escalante in an attempt to be clever. Escalante does him one better, showing him how to quickly multiply by nine on his fingers.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: Many.
    Angel: Puta madre.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: All four of the female students featured in the movie represent different aspects of this trope. Ana is a combination of the sweet one/smart girl due to her quiet nature and love for mathematics. Claudia is the sexy one because she "gets around" the most and is considered the school's residential beauty. Though, this trope is averted when viewers learn Claudia is more than just a face. Lupe is Team Mom because she takes care of her younger siblings while her parents are at work. Rafaela is considered the mannish one because she is shown to hang around Tito the majority of the movie and dress in masculine attire (i.e. over-sized boy shirts and pants).
  • Golden Ending: Despite Escalante's students being accused of cheating, they retake and re-pass the test. The film ends with stats shown about the rising number of students passing the AP calculus test. If that's not golden, what is?
  • Great Accomplishment, Weak Credibility: The ETS investigators don't believe that Escalante's students could have passed the AP calculus test without cheating since they all got the wrong answer on a certain practice question.
  • Heel–Face Turn: At the start of the movie, Angel is a member of the Maravilla gang and smokes. At the end, Angel becomes a great student and is shown to have gotten one of the highest scores on the AP calculus test.
  • Hollywood Heart Attack: Escalante suffers a rather jarring one.
  • Inner City School: And being in such bad situation its facing a posibility of losing its credentials.
  • In-Series Nickname: The students call Escalante "Kemo," short for "Kemosabe."
  • Jerkass/Deadpan Snarker: Escalante by the start of the movie. One student even calls him out on his snide behavior.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold/Papa Wolf: Escalante by the end of the movie. At this point, he is now much more caring to his students and will defend them.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: "My name is Jaime Escalante" is said frequently throughout the movie as a means of introduction.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Angel pretends to be less intelligent than he is so that his friends will still think he's cool. He refuses to be seen bringing books to class.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Raquel Ortega. Her approach to things, instead of helping the students (or the faculty), is to just mount obstacles and forcing everyone to consider the situation impossible to fix and roll with it.
  • Precision F-Strike: Escalante swears exactly once during the movie, to Ramirez (Andy Garcia), an Educational Testing Service investigator who thinks the students cheated.
    Escalante: I'm gonna prove you guys wrong!
    Ramirez: I hope you do, because this is not between you and me.
    Escalante: Maybe not, but if I catch you on the street, I'm gonna kick the shit out of you.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Principal Molina. He expects results and listens to suggestions and solutions to the problems his school and students are facing.
  • Refuge in Audacity: "It's not that they're stupid - they just don't know anything."
  • Save Our Students: One of the quintessential movies of the "genre". It's also notable for being a case of Unbuilt Trope, as it was one of the earlier films dedicated to the subject and subverting a lot of standard cliches. For one, Escalante is a hard-ass that simply pushes his students into extreme ends of hard work, rather than some trickster trying to win the crowd.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Angel and Chuco smoke in the high-schooler "let's do the grown-up stuff" logic.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: When parental permission is required (either for the summer course or the advanced classes), Claudia faces this argument from her mother. However, she manages to convince her mother otherwise.
  • Stern Teacher: Jaime combines his assertiveness and high expectations with a lot of humor, hoping to inspire his students while also cutting through their BS.
  • Tension-Cutting Laughter: After the False Confession Angel makes about the test, the other students, who had been quiet and tense the entire time, all break out laughing.
  • Titled After the Song: By pop-rock band Mr. Mister, which plays over the end credits.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Escalante has a weathered face, a pot belly and a terrible combover, but his wife is beautiful. This shows the power of Escalante's mind and personality, which transcend his humble appearance.