Monday has come and gone for this reviewer’s normal day job, and therefore time to get back to the real passion of film reviewing! The past weekend only saw one new major release on the radar, and that was the Walt Disney Pictures offering, “McFarland USA”.
SEE THE TRAILER HERE
Brought to the screen by writer/director Niki Caro (“Whale Rider“, “North Country“), the film is based on the true story of Jim White (Kevin Costner), a former high school football coach forced to job hunt after an altercation with a player. Ultimately landing in the small, predominately Mexican-American California town of McFarland in 1987, he takes on multiple PE and coaching duties while trying to adjust himself, along with wife Cheryl (Maria Bello) and daughters Julie (Morgan Saylor) and Jamie (Elsie Fisher), to a much simpler life. When things seem to be going nowhere fast, a chance observation by Jamie during a PE class causes Jim to see the potential to create a cross-country team made up of 7 particular students: Danny (Ramiro Rodriguez), Thomas (Carlos Pratts), Jose (Johnny Ortiz), David (Rafael Martinez), Johnny (Hector Duran), Victor (Sergio Avelar), and Damacio (Michael Aguero). Learning more and more how difficult and rigorous their lives actually are, Jim soon comes to appreciate in new ways that the boys may be from a different place in life than him, but they all can still share the bonds of friendship and form a competitive team as well. Through trials that come and cultural experiences shared by all of them, the Whites as a family become an integral part of their new community as a new winning tradition is established where none had previously existed.
Even when certain order of events or timing of events is changed for dramatic effect, true sports stories have always inspired this reviewer. “McFarland USA” continues that successful trend while also painting a simple, insightful, and, frankly, sobering look at the life these kids live on a daily basis. Putting more effort forth working to help their families survive daily than most might feel they do in a week, or month, or year, the story shows the power of one man seeing potential in those that many would have written off and not thought twice about. And that’s the power of what’s portrayed, as it took someone like Jim White to invest his time and efforts in showing these boys he cared for them and about them and desired to see them go above the station in life they felt they could not initially rise above. The seven young actors very much bring to life both the struggles and successes they faced in a way that you honestly cannot help but BE inspired by. Costner is strong is this type of role and no exception found here, able to bring the necessary mix of both determined coach and loving friend to the character of Jim White in a very believable way. There is a wonderful gelling of humor and pathos throughout the movie as well, aided by a appropriately conceived soundtrack by Antonio Pinto. Even when you know the outcome, it doesn’t take away from the amazing work White did with these kids and the example he set that, as the film’s tag line states, “Champions can come from anywhere.”
As always, this is all for your consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!