Bill has been comfortable flying below the radar in a crummy job after a rough divorce. When approached by his friend and current principal of Plainview High School, Bill agrees to take on the task of coaching the girls basketball team. When he arrives, he finds only six girls, no junior varsity squad and one of the six is injured. Struggling to get past his own issues with women’s sports, he reluctantly hangs around and pushes the girls physically more than they had ever been tested. Losing the first game of the season causes him to go seek out the help of the bus driver to join him as the assistant coach. As the season goes on and the girls to begin to play like more of a team, they begin to take better notice of the challenges and struggles in Bill’s life and hope to inspire him to be a better person. When an unexpected incident keeps him away from finishing the season as the coach, he presses on to try to support the team in their post-season appearance.
Starring: Sam Rockwell (Bill), Emma Roberts (Abby), Rob Corddry (Terry), Emily Rios (Kathy), Rooney Mara (Wendy), Meaghan Witri (Tamra), Melanie Hinkle (Mindy), Shareeka Epps (Lisa), Jessica Hecht (Stacey), Shana Dowdeswell (Molly), Connor Paolo (Damon)
While Sam Rockwell is better known for his action and dramatic roles, he is able to channel a little of the depravity of his character from The Green Mile while keeping it a little more sane, humorous and fueled by alcohol. He enters the film as a self-defeating wash-up but learns to care about something greater than himself. Emma Roberts serves as his primary inspiration and leader of the basketball team. As a seemingly abandoned youth, she exhibits some of lack of a parental figure through her relationship with the coach but also provides the perspective for Rockwell’s character about how to get through to the team. Rob Corddry serves as that principal and is more of a setup character than a major contributor to the film. Margo Martindale, as the bus driver Donna, shows a lack of knowledge about sports but a greater interest in seeing the girl success as a team. She has a tough personality and adds a bit of conflict due to her sexual orientation. The rest of the team is made up of Meaghan Witri (Tamra), Melanie Hinkle (Mindy), Rooney Mara (Wendy), Shareeka Epps (Lisa) and Emily Rios (Kathy). Rockwell constantly seems at odds with his ex-wife, played by Jessica Hecht, and his daughter, played by Shana Dowdeswell.
James C. Strouse saw an opportunity to shine a light on a sad figure, Bill, and his journey to find purpose again through coaching girls’ basketball. While initially resistant to the idea, the girls challenged him as much as challenged them, causing him to care enough to put forth an effort. When he failed to recognize ignorance in a comment, the girls were more than happy to call him out on it. As someone who failed to maintain victory in his own life, he had trouble articulating it and encouraging it in his players, until everything else ended up on the line. He was taken back by both their investment in the team and their investment in him, as they protected him from a drunk driving incident after one game and bought him proper coaching attire before another. While the goal of bringing him on board was to help manage the team, the team did more to put a spark back into his life.
While the movie’s ultimate goals were to entertain people and make them laugh, there were a number of interesting issues that were brought up during the story that lacked a little extra attention. The first was the tension between Lisa and Kathy due to racial differences. While their anger was fairly strong through the first couple of games, there seemed to be a moment in the lunchroom one day that everything had been resolved and no more tension appeared to occur. The strong focus initially appeared to create an adjacent storyline that included some sort of life lesson about racial difference, but this was ultimately let go. The second was sexual orientation, where both Donna and Tamra openly talk about their sexual preferences. While there is some good development between the two characters as they explore Tamra’s new feelings, the story just allows Bill to brush it off to the side after asking, as if there was nothing left to develop.
This film is not without its flaws, but it is an entertaining look into a coach with nothing to lose who finds himself taken over by the positive feelings that working with these girls does for him.
Dan’s Rating: 3.0/5