Directed By Sean McNamara
Starring – Erin Moriarty, Helen Hunt, William Hurt
The Plot – After the tragic death of star volleyball player Caroline “Line” Found (Danika Yarosh), a team of dispirited high school girls must band together under the guidance of their tough-love coach in hopes of winning the state championship.
Rated PG for some thematic elements
– Both Hunt and Hurt outrun the hurdles of abysmal character exposition by granting us two strong performances in a film that needs that most of all. For Hunt, it’s clear that Caroline’s passing has opened her up to the relationship side of her team that was all business before, and for Hurt, we see a grieving father with the arduous task of picking up the pieces and finding the will to live happy again.
– The volleyball choreography here feels very in-tuned to the kind of sequencing and designs that the sport merits. Even if you aren’t a fan of the sport, you will appreciate the kind of chemistry that goes into building a team from the ground up that West High must now face without their star player.
– Much of the camera work starts off rudimentary with quick zooms and pan-outs, but then settles in to find its stroke. The later games in the film offer a panning shot from side-to-side that articulates the balance of power between two teams, and does so in a way that feels authentic to the actor’s having to depict plays for themselves in long takes, as opposed to quick edits that could make any of them look amazing without trying.
– Whether you find yourself invested in the characters or not, ‘The Miracle Season’ does bring with it a somber sense of heart-tugging dramatic sadness that will have you battling back tears a time or two. With more conviction to taking time, this film could’ve been remembered along the lines of sports biopics like ‘We Are Marshall’ and ‘Remember the Titans’ for making the most of the inevitable gut punch that you know is coming.
– Sport Biopics 101. This is a virtual checklist of formulaic cliches that has everything you’ve come to expect. Musical training montages? CHECK, A team working their way out of a losing streak? CHECK, The emergence of an overlooked player who would otherwise be riding the bench? CHECK. It’s all there, and its complacency is something that offers nothing of substance or originality to this particular story that should be inspiring.
– Speaking of uninspiring, the predictability factor here constantly keeps this film grounded. Other than the passing of Caroline from the trailers, I knew nothing about this real life team, but was still able to accurately predict where every single arc of the story was headed. The worst feeling with any film is that lack of overall sense of moving through the motions, and this film couldn’t feel more mundane because of it.
– Something that the music soundtrack does in the first half of the movie that I found interesting was that it only played pop songs from the year the story takes place (2010). This is a refreshingly faithful take, but unfortunately only lasts for half of the movie. The second half decides to throw in anything from the last few years of pop music that has been associated with the terms “Inspiring”, “Feminist”, or “Tries too hard” to manipulate audiences into thinking it’s watching something better than it actually is.
– How bad is the character exposition in the film? Well, the main character barely has parents, is reduced to a terribly undercooked romance that I couldn’t have cared less about, and doesn’t remotely standout as anything special from the rest of the group, besides being Caroline’s best friend. Even with the main character of the movie, we can’t help but feel the impact of longing for someone else. A bad sign indeed.
– Let’s face it, volleyball isn’t exactly the most dramatic sport to depict in film. It’s too quick in point decisions to stretch the tension, it’s too repetitive in movements to think the next play is going to be any different, and it continuously lacks the physical interaction that underlines the concepts of overcoming the odds.
– It doesn’t have much crossover appeal besides the limited audience that it caters to. There’s definitely the teenager and sports elements at hand here, but what for people who don’t enjoy either? Very little. This film sticks far too strong on the beaten path, and doesn’t expand its depth to the spiritual side that takes place outside of the courts. I’m not asking for religious circumference, but anything that tells me that volleyball might not be the only important thing in this town would be excellent.
– Atrocious Hallmark flashback dialogue. “I may be the surgeon, but you’re the healer out there” might be my single least favorite line of scripted dialogue this year. My only question is when you write something this meandering and emotionally vapid, do you get half off of Apple products because the stores feel bad for you?