|Friday Night Lights
2004 - PG-13 - 117 Mins.
|Director: Peter Berg
|Producer: Brian Grazer
|Written By: Peter Berg, David Cohen
|Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Tim McGraw, Kevin Page, Ray Prewitt, Lucas Black, Jay Hernandez
|Review by: Joe Rickey
|Official Site: www.fridaynightlightsmovie.com
Based on a true story (and the novel by H.G. Bissinger) about the town of Odessa, Texas, a small dot out in the middle of the sparse Texas landscape, that basically lives and dies by its high school football team, ‘Friday Night Lights’ stars Billy Bob Thornton as Gary Gaines (in a consistently solid performance), the team’s hard-nosed coach.
Listen to me or else...
The year is 1988 and the Permian Panthers, referred also as Mojo, easily captivate the attention of the townsfolk, even to the point that local businesses are closed in time for the game, with signs reading “Closed. Gone to the game” posted on the window of each and every business. No second guessing occurs when the school spends most of its budget on new artificial turf for the 20,000 seat stadium, about ten times the amount of seats for a high school football stadium.
With all the money going into the team, obviously, the expectations are very high. Gaines gets “advice” from various people who think they could do his job with one hand tied behind their back. All of this also might have something to do with Gaines getting a salary in excess of 60,000 dollars for a job that lasts only a few months per year. As the team closes in on the championship, pressure from the town keeps getting worse and individual players along with Gaines start to feel it from all quarters, ranging from abusive parents to miscellaneous people from town as some of them realize that football is the only way they’ll ever get out of the town.
‘Friday Night Lights’ is directed by Peter Berg, and like his last directorial effort ‘The Rundown’, this film makes every hit and every scene of contact on the gridiron appear to be exorbitantly painful. His use of gritty handheld camera and a color palette that can only be characterized as supremely washed-out conveys the desolation and desperation that permeate the lives of every citizen of Odessa. The film also goes to lengths to make the viewer feel uncomfortable and not only during the action on the field. Various players feel intense pressure from those at home, including one father basically threatening his son with a beating if he doesn’t improve his play. The film also sidesteps most of the predictability that usually overcome most true story sports films with a daring ending that plays successfully with one’s expectations. At times though, this feeling of discomfort tends to overwhelm, making the production definitely a case of a film that is not for everyone.
‘Friday Night Lights’ no doubt is well-made. Peter Berg gives the film a stylishly appropriate look and feel, the performances are genuine, and the film continually plays with viewers’ expectations. Unfortunately, it’s rather severe depiction of the depths of human nature and how some people stake their lives on the success and failure of sports teams makes it more of a niche film than a blockbuster.