Kevin Costner stars in MCFARLAND, USA, a film about people living in a small, poor farming town in California's Central Valley. It's better than you might expect, because it was directed by Niki Caro who made WHALE RIDER back in 2002.
MCFARLAND, USA is based on a true story that happened in 1987.
It's about how a fired high school football coach takes the only job he can get in a community of Mexican immigrants and how the people there change his life for the better even as he helps seven of his students become a successful cross country running team.
The plot sounds like a “triumph of the underdog cliche,” but the film itself is so well done and often so realistic that I couldn't avoid being moved by it.
Costner: “Diaz, Diaz, Diaz. Popular name where you guys come from?”
Student: “White, that a popular name where you come from.”
Kevin Costner is James White, the new P.E. teacher in McFarland, where the students are pickers who get up at 4:30 in the morning to work in the fields before they go to school. Mr. White is impressed by how much energy they have and how fast they can run.
So he asks to start start a cross country running team.
Principal: “That's a private school sport. They breathe different air than we do.”
White: “No, it's the same air…..I mean we have kids here who seem like they can run forever. They carbo load on rice and beans. They pick in extreme heat. They go to school all day. Some of them even run home.”
Maybe the reason the kids on the new running team feel so real is that three of them are non actors who actually live in McFarland where the film was shot.
White: The lowest score wins, like golf.
Kid: You think we play golf? We don't got a country club. We don't even got a K Mart.
One boy's father: “Each hour my boys train with you; they do not work with me. That's food off our table.”
MCFARLAND, USA rises above its predictable plot by really getting into the lives and the culture of these hard working immigrants.
Mother (giving White some leftovers): “Take home to the family.”
White: “No thanks.”
Mother: “Don't say to me, ‘no.' How you gonna be family if you no eating together, eh? I want that back.” (She points to the leftover container.)
MCFARLAND, USA occasionally gets sentimental and it feels about twenty minutes too long, but overall it's a crowd pleasing experience.
Terry Hunter, Hawaii News Now. firstname.lastname@example.org