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Featured DVD Review: The Winning Season

November 22nd, 2010

The Winning Season - Buy from Amazon

The Winning Season had its premiere at last year's Sundance Film Festival and generated quite a bit of buzz. However, when it opened in limited release in September of this year, its reviews were only mixed and it went nowhere at the box office. Will it perform better on the home market? Or is it destined to be forgotten?

The Movie

We first meet Bill working as a busboy at a casual dinning restaurant. Bill's a (former) alcoholic who is divorced, estranged from his teenage daughter, and generally living a pathetic life. He gets a chance to turn his life around from his friend, Terry, who is the principal at the local high school. Their girls basketball coach quit right before the season started, so he's desperate for a replacement, and Bill used to be a great player in high school and even coached a boys team to the championship tournament, before they all quit on him. However, he thinks the girls team he will be coaching sucks and they have about the same amount of respect for him as he does for them. There first game is a disaster, while the second isn't a win either, but soon Bill, with the help of the bus driver turned assistant coach, starts to get through to them, and they soon help him turn his life around, with a few bumps in the road along the way.

This is the kind of movie you can watch and play Sports Movie Cliché Bingo. More than a few points are borrowed from such films as Bad News Bears or A League of Their Own. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as the cast does help inject some life in the script where it is otherwise lacking. Sam Rockwell leads the cast and I think that without him this film would have failed. Of the players, Emma Roberts gets the most screen time, and it is her character that is the one that connects first with Sam's character and draws out a father-figure. There are a number of other up-and-comers in the cast, including Rooney Mara, who will soon be the lead in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Shareeka Epps from Half Nelson, and others.

There were more than a few times I was reminded of Coach, another small independent film I previously reviewed (there's even a lesbian subplot in both movies). That film had a more consistent, lighter tone, which makes sense as it was a romantic comedy at its core. This one had a more serious tone, at times, which makes it more likely to stay with you after viewing. But this film also has more trouble balancing that tone with some of the less serious moments, or at the very least making the transition between the tones.

A little better script and this could have been a really good movie. A weaker actor in the lead and it could have been unwatchable.

The Extras

There are no real extras on the DVD, not unless you count the trailer as an extra, which I don't.

The Verdict

The Winning Season is arguably better than its Tomatometer Score would indicate and it is worth checking out. However, there are enough flaws, most significantly the lack of originality, that its replay is limited. Add in a featureless DVD and for most a rental will be enough.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Winning Season