This latest Disney film starring Academy Award winner Kevin Costner tells the uplifting and remarkable true story of a small California high school cross-country team in 1987. It’s an inspiring and motivational film tribute to a community and culture that raises children with a tireless work ethic while fostering a strong sense of family responsibility. “McFarland USA” is an eye-opening and heartwarming movie that challenges our assumptions about people, personal sacrifice and endurance. The film delivers an epic account on both cultural and physical conditioning–combining to superbly illustrate the tenacity of the human spirit.
Nowhere are assumptions and preconceived notions about people more evident than in Costner’s character, Jim White, portraying McFarland’s high school cross-country coach in the small agricultural town. Transplanted from more posh coaching environs, the White family’s relocation to this community of immigrant farm workers, or “pickers” as they’re self-described in the film, creates the immensely satisfying learning curve for viewers on the rich Hispanic culture.
As Coach White develops and trains his cross-country team, we find out how special this young group of runners and their community are. The movie’s most salient point is how Costner’s coaching role challenges his student athletes to not assume they can’t be successful outside of McFarland, CA. This rebuke to the status quo gains momentum as the film’s real story unfolds on the screen—culminating in a spectacular and emotional movie ending.
The film’s invigorating cast shines bright throughout this brilliant journey. Each of the jarring performances, particularly from the young runners, is exceptional and believable. In fact, while Costner’s work as Coach White was adequate enough, it pales in comparison to the authentic and endearing efforts by the other stars.
The first great movie of 2015, “McFarland USA” is a motivational true story of endurance and challenging one’s assumptions. It radiates guts, determination and pushing well beyond a person’s threshold of pain and physical limitations. An extraordinary cast brings a heartfelt and triumphant message of culture, family and hard work. Misguided stereotypes are broken with an unorthodox coach and a well-conditioned and tenacious handful of runners. Altogether, the film brings us full-circle to a place that feels like no other…home.
“McFarland USA” is rated PG with a running time of 2 hours and 9 minutes.
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