At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Thursday, October 21, 2004


Friday Night Lights--Billy Bob Thornton and Lucas Black, best buddies in Slingblade, team up again for this more or less true narrative about one season of high school football in Odessa, Texas. Roughly speaking, the first half is sociology and the second half is Cinderella story. Using grainy film and shaky camera shots, director Peter Berg aims at a pseudo-documentary verisimiltude in portraying the grim realities of life in a declining west Texas town whose citizenry have little to get excited about except the local boys' gridiron success. The suspense in this first part of the movie hinges on sudden reversals of fortune, as the coach and players are alternately lionized and scorned by the rabid populace depending on each week's score. (Speaking of realism, I appreciated the authentic location shots; the unrelieved vistas of dirt, mesquite, and jack pumps do justice to Permian Basin desolation.) Once the team makes it to state playoffs, the movie turns into a standard, though well done, underdog sports flick, complete with a "Do it for the Gipper"-style locker room speech and a last second goal-line stand-off. Billy Bob does a fine job as the coach whose stoic crust occasionally cracks with flare-ups of anger or sardonic humor, and Lucas Black, though all grown up physically, has the same pensive air he had in Slingblade; but one Derek Luke will get more hooplah for his effective emoting as Boobie Miles, a flamboyant, cocksure Deion Sanders in the making who meets with tragedy. B+


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