Tuesday, March 10, 2015

McFarland - A Reminder of the Real American Dream

 There aren't too many definites in this world but put Kevin Costner in a sports movie and you can be pretty sure you will get your money's worth.
McFarland is the kind of movie that will never be a blockbuster. It wasn't aiming to be the biggest movie or to "better the rest" based on box office bucks. But it has heart and it has a great message.

Is it formulaic and somewhat predictable? Yes...but that's because "good", more often than not, is predictable.
McFarland is the true story of a coach taking a high school cross-country team from non-existence to competing in the California State Championships. The story is inspirational but it is the message that director Niki Caro has framed around the story that makes this movie stand out. You see, while the story maybe the typical cliche - a white guy inspiring a group of immigrant, unmotivated kids to become something - the message is really of how an immigrant community reminded the white guy of what the American dream really is.

The American Dream used to stand for something. It used to stand for opportunity. It used to stand for hard work. It used to stand for family.  It used to stand for equality and freedom and "in God we trust". Over the years this dream became simplified by mainstream to mean, bigger, better, and brighter. Today, that definition for many has evolved into ego, inequality and excess.
In McFarland we are introduced to a white family, pointedly called the White family, who seem to be failing at what they perceive to be the American dream. The father, Jim White, loses his job as a high school football coach and has to move to a largely immigrant town in central California called McFarland.  His home is downsized, his job is downsized and his expectations are down-sized - all of it far from the super-sized definition of the modern day American dream.

But as the White's are forced to live with the disappointment of their downfall and overcome the distrust they feel in their new surroundings with their new neighbours, slowly, somewhere in the dusty orange groves, and back-cramping cabbage fields of McFarland, they are reminded of the real American Dream.

Is this an overly patriotic American movie? No. Not at all. In fact, you will learn more about the Mexican culture than the American culture on the face of it. But throughout the film, director Niki Caro reminds the audience that it is the immigrant mentality that built America. Not with idle expectation or by demanding rights but on the backbone of hard work, humility and a healthy dose of love and respect for family, community and yes, even God.

You will get bigger blockbusters, you will get better award-winning, fashionable movies but if you want to be reminded of what life is really about, and at the same time enjoy a strong inspirational sports movie with the ever-likeable Kevin Costner, go check out McFarland.

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