John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

McFarland USA Poster

McFarland, USA

Genre: Drama

Director: Niki Caro

Cast: Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Morgan Saylor, Martha Higareda, Michael Aguero, Sergio Avelar, Hector Duran, Rafael Martinez, Johnny Ortiz, Carlos Pratts

MPAA-Rating: PG

Release Date: February 20th, 2015

McFarland, price USA is the rare sports film that embraces its genre but steps above it, information pills offering a heartfelt glimpse of a struggling poor community that is united over a local sports team. “USA” is poignantly in the title reminding viewers that even though the American dream exists in this country, viagra there are some communities that seldom see it in their everyday life. As one character poignantly notes about McFarland, “There ain’t nothing American dream about this place.”

Yet, part of the story’s allure is that it shows that such a dream does exist even when it’s not readily apparent.

Based on a true story, Kevin Costner stars as Jim White, an unlikely cross country coach at the local high school. After White, his wife Cheryl (Maria Bello) and their two daughters move into a new community, they realize how sorely they stand out in the predominantly Latino community. White, who is hired as a coach at the school, stands resolute though as he tries to bring a group of students together to form a cross-country team.

What is unique about this story though are the backgrounds of many of the students. In a lot of sports films, the students who form a ragtag team for this sport or that are often from well-off families and have the time and the energy to join the local team. The McFarland students are different. Many of them wake up before school to work in the fields and they return to the fields after their classes are over.

They aren’t hesitant to join the team because they don’t want to work hard or they want to spend time with their friends. They are just too busy working to spend time on an extracurricular activity.

The script, which is credited to Christopher Cleveland, Bettina Gilois, and Grant Thompson, shows how hard-working these students are. When Jim White– in one of the film’s best scenes– volunteers to work on the fields with the students one day, he sees the dedication that the students have exhibited throughout their lives. He just tries to take some of that dedication and gear it towards a sporting event.

McFarland, USA does have that inevitable sports underdog feeling to it but its clichés are eclipsed by the affection that develops between White and his students. There is a great strength in those relationships and in the one that develops between the entire White family and the community. The area, which looked so different when they arrived in town, becomes welcoming as the family learns more about their neighbors and friends.

The film succeeds as both a sports drama and as a film that strives to say something more— both about the American dream and about racism. The racist remarks that the students face here aren’t as blatant as those that the students in Remember the Titans faced but they contain the same sense of ugly righteousness. White, a flawed man himself, even becomes more culturally-aware as the film progresses.

There are some obvious moments here (such as one where a student stands over a bridge questioning his life) but even though we’ve seen some similar moments before, we don’t often see movies that strive to capture poor communities the way McFarland, USA does. Like the dedicated runners depicted here, this film stands out in a crowd and saunters past many similar films.

Review by: John Hanlon