Friday Night Lights
January 29, 2006
Starring: Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Lucas Black, Garrett Hedlund, Derek Luke, Jay Hernandez, Lee Jackson, Lee Thompson Young, Tim McGraw, Grover Coulson, Connie Britton, Connie Cooper, Kasey Stevens, Ryanne Duzich, Amber Heard, ,
If phrases like “4th and 10”, “quarterback” or “state championships” don’t stir pride and honor into running through your veins, and unless your a NFL fan or from Odessa, Texas in 1988 – it probably won’t. Catering for a niche market, this film about high school American football shows us life-stopping dedication, overpowering determination and absolute love for the sport, and that’s just from the local townsfolk.
Based upon the novel, which was based on the true story on the Permian Panthers bid to make the state championships in 1988, Friday Night Lights introduces us to a bunch of 17 year old high school kids who are thrust into the media limelight, simply because they play football. The whole town comes out en mass to support them and their superstar player Boobie Miles, who evidently gets injured (wouldn’t be a film, if he didn’t). Now it’s the obstacles on the field and through their personal lives that is dragging them down and they must rise against the odds to become champs.
Have audiences worldwide not seen all this before? The star player – injured, the rest of the team picking up the pieces, the hard-nosed coach after another winning season, there’s a million films like this out there, what makes this one any different – nothing! Friday Night Lights drops nothing short of inferior to other American football movies or indeed other sporting movies. It’s Radio without the heart and passion, or Varsity Blues without the emotional investment in the characters, although Lights does try, it’s all done way too seriously.
Unlike some other sports movie this is shot mostly with handheld cameras and the excessive unsteady shots and quick zooms gives this a documentary look and feel, and also makes those few stylized shots surrounded by superb sunsets, standout with impressiveness. By the end of the first half, audiences will be utterly bored by the fact that these kids home lives are glossed over far too quickly, and the film’s story is about the football and only the football. To build the final act, viewers are thrown an unsuspected elaboration on the “father wanting his son to be a winner like him” plot and also a race angle is pathetically chucked in, proving that the writers didn’t have a clue about pacing. The quick camerawork, fast editing and narrative being told by local radio commentators make the training sessions and games look really exciting against the ‘80s hip-hop soundtrack, but without the script giving us anything to care about, it’s all worthless.
No one really shines, and although there is nothing wrong with Billy Bob Thornton’s performance as Coach Gaines, there is a certain “miscast” smell about it. You may applaud the style and Peter Berg’s directing, for apparently representing what it’s like to live in Odessa, Texas, reasonable accurately, but you may want to beat the writers with their own script for using every sports cliché known to man, (except for the one where the quarterback get replaced with a cute Labrador) but then it was based on a true story, so can you blame them?
Not very often that the extras are better than the actual film, and manage to raise the profile of the disc, and that very nearly happens with Friday Night Lights. The commentary between Peter Berg and writer of the novel Buzz Bissinger is quite acceptable, even though there is lengthy pauses for thoughts some of the gaps left in the film are filled in nicely, especially if you are not from Odessa, Texas or have no concept of American Football.
After a few crappy deleted scenes and lack of a trailer, although the main menu screen is like a mini-trailer anyway, the crowning jewel is the the story of the real Permian Panthers. Coming in at 25 minutes and featuring interviews with the real characters that we meet in the film and real footage from 1988, we feel we lean more about what the film was trying to say.