McFarland, USA Review

Went to see the movie "McFarland, USA" last night, in a nearly empty theater.

Got a senior citizen discount, so it might be time to trim the beard and ditch some gray. I thought it funny, my sweetie not so much.

I went in with fairly low expectations after reading too many other commentaries. Glad I went, though, as I enjoyed the movie quite a bit.

Costner was his usual very smooth self, sliding into the role and convincingly playing the part of a coach that knew nothing about cross country. Even better was his portrayal of a man unaware of the conditions in the fields. Disney and the director handled this deftly, avoiding the easy screeds to touch on the humanity of the pickers and the hardscrabble work they do.

The running scenes were okay, but the most dynamic parts of the movie occur off the course, and between the team and their coach. "McFarland, USA" does a wonderful job of showing the meaning of community and the power of hope.

That hope gets embodied into the character of the team and inspires a community that had little to cheer for. Even in a small audience, we had folks cheering the runners on in the last race scene.

The biggest complaint I've seen from runners is that the actors didn't look like runners. I think, for movie purposes, that might be better. If they had all been extomorph's that weighed 120 pounds and looked as though they could fly, an essential element of the theme of the movie would have been lost.

These weren't runners, not at first. They were incredibly hard-working kids who took on running on top of everything else. Portraying them as a cross-section of some skinny, some not, and showing the heart they brought to the course was more important for the movie than accurately portraying a team of ultra-skinny runners.

At it's heart, this isn't a running movie - it's a movie about community and family ties that has runners in it. Just like life.

That's where the movie shines and why it is so much more popular with the audience than the critics, non-runners than nearly-elite runners.