Girls' hoops doc is funny and inspiring, never saccharine. 

The 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams is one of the great films of the past 20 years. The new The Heart of the Game, which similarly follows urban high school basketball through several seasons, isn't. But it might be a better sports movie.

To its credit, Hoops Dreams made you question your fandom. It was unsettling. The less sociological The Heart of the Game is -- as its title indicates -- a purer appeal to basketball fans, perhaps in part due to its crucial difference: It's about girls.

Early in the film, a group of high school boys are interviewed, and they claim that male players just want to score and be seen, while girls play team basketball. This may come off as a bit of a WNBA commercial, but with less money, pressure, and corruption in the girls' game, it does seem easier to keep the focus on the sport itself.

The Heart of the Game follows Seattle's Roosevelt Roughriders and its new coach, tax professor Bill Resler, through six seasons. What begins as a focus on a colorful coach broadens with the introduction of a troubled star player, who enters the program in the second season and whose story arc eventually takes over the film.

With its series of tough losses leading to a big game with the Roughriders' closest rival, The Heart of the Game feels almost scripted at times. But whether the filmmakers got lucky or fashioned this narrative through astute editing is immaterial. The end result is a gripping movie.

And even though The Heart of the Game can be inspirational, it's never saccharine. There's much truth and humor here: It's a great joy watching these girls, all pimples and ponytails, dropping F-bombs and hurling other R-rated expletives in frustration or excitement.

The immediately likable Resler devises a "theme" for each season, such as "Pack of Wolves." During timeouts, we see the girls in a huddle with their coach. Resler chants, "Sink your teeth in their neck!" and each time the girls respond, "Draw blood!" This might sound like the kind of hyper-competitive stuff that ruins kids' sports, but in this case it isn't. Each chant ends with players and coach joining together to shout "Have fun!" Most of the girls are near giggles during this routine.

"What rhymes with 'bass pickin'?" Resler asks his charges late in one game. "Ass kickin'!" one girl chirps cheerfully. "I just saw one," Resler shoots back.

"It's so cheesy," one player says when asked about her coach's motivational techniques, "but I like it. It's so Bill."

I've only got one small complaint about an otherwise enjoyable and invigorating little movie: In packing six seasons' worth of material into 97 minutes, too many potentially interesting elements get short shrift. The Heart of the Game might have been better as a short-run television series, especially since the big screen doesn't enhance its camcorder-quality visuals.

The Heart of the Game

Opening Friday, August 4th

Studio on the Square

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • War For The Planet Of The Apes

      Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson get down to serious monkey business
    • Spider-Man: Homecoming

      Michael Keaton steals the show in this amazing superhero adventure.

Blogs

We Saw You

Blues on the Bluff, Luna, Frank Murtaugh

News Blog

High Ozone Levels Forecasted for Wednesday

Fly On The Wall Blog

Dammit Gannett: "Where's Elvis" Edition

News Blog

Alligator Decoys to Curb Geese at Botanic Garden

Fly On The Wall Blog

When Boy Scouts are Political Props

News Blog

EPA Could Make University-Area Lot a Superfund Site

From My Seat

2017 Memphis Redbirds: Wisdom Prevails

Music Blog

Dead tribute raises awareness & donations for MIFA

Politics Beat Blog

City Voters in 2019 Will Rank Candidates 1-2-3 — and Avoid Runoffs

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Chris Herrington

  • Last Words

    In "Enough Said," James Gandolfini makes his last lead film role his best.
    • Sep 26, 2013
  • Hayes Carll at the Hi-Tone

    • Sep 19, 2013
  • Masters of Sound

    New albums from two of Memphis’ most distinctive stylists.
    • Sep 19, 2013
  • More »

Readers also liked…

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation