The Heart of the Game Ward Serrill

My eyes usually roll at the thought of an inspirational sports movie, but The Heart of the Game takes less for granted than most in the genre. Though the documentary predictably traffics in underdog uplift, it's unusual in understanding what underdogs actually deal with and the enormous pressures which they must suffer. Seattle tax-law professor Bill Resler kicks things off by deciding to coach girl‚s high school basketball; with a combination of positive thinking and go-for-the-throat competitiveness, he turns the neglected team into a powerhouse that racks up better attendance than the boys‚ team. This, of course, creates ego battles and hurt feelings: one star player gets coaching on the side (only to nurse a dark secret) while a subsequent achiever has troubles due to being a poor black girl in a privileged white school. But in centering on both coach Resler and class-challenged star Darnellia Russell, the film achieves a both-sides-now approach to one who channels chaos and one who finds herself at its mercy. Though the film is formless and perhaps less analytical than it might have been, it still manages to hammer home the incredible determination required to win, especially in the case of Russell‚s odds as events make her chances at triumph seem smaller and smaller. We invest in the story of the team like gangbusters; by the time you‚re at the state championships, you‚re on the edge of your seat (and for non-athletic reasons). I could quibble about how it was handled, but it made this diehard sports-hater actually interested in the outcome of some basketball games- and that, for those who know me, is recommendation enough. (Alliance Atlantis)