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Saturday, February 21, 2015

McFarland USA (2015)

After being fired from his last high school coaching job for losing his temper, a teacher (Kevin Costner) moves his family to a small but poor Mexican-American community which is the only place he could get a job. Unfamiliar with their culture and way of life, he's ready to move on again but something remarkable will soon happen. Normally, sports movies aren't my cup of tea. But this film, which is based on the true story of the 1987 McFarland high school cross country team, hit home for me. I was a high school cross country and track runner and the film couldn't help but bring back memories of the physical pain of running, the grueling practices and the rush of exhilaration. And looking at the audience which was mostly Hispanic (and no longer a minority but the majority in California) eager to see themselves portrayed on the screen where they are still underrepresented. The film can't entirely avoid the cliches of sports movies but it has an authenticity that can't be faulted in both the cross country scenes and the Mexican-American milieu. And in the film's stirring epilogue, we're reminded that in the end, this is a film about people who exist. Directed by Niki Caro providing further proof (as if it were needed) that a woman can direct films that deal with other than "women's" issues. With Maria Bello, Morgan Saylor and Carlos Pratts, a young actor who I hope has a big career ahead of him.

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