Declaring it was “inspired” by the true story of a supremely successful high school football team (that of De La Salle High), When the Game Stands Tall (2014) simply does not make its material believable. Example #1: Christian coach Bob Ladouceur, played by Jim Caviezel, teaches his players that a winning streak is not the most important thing in the world, etc.; but when he feels that the boys have failed to get the message (gosh darn it!), the coach disappointedly hangs his head. The film strongly implies, however, that almost all these players are bona fide Christians, so why doesn’t Ladouceur simply let the Bible tell them what’s right and wrong?
Example #2: The coach arranges for the boys to take a field trip to a VA hospital, but exactly what this does for them is not made clear. Comic relief occurs, even so, when a wounded veteran’s urine bag bursts open in the hands of a haughty black kid (how does it happen?) who then exclaims, “Aw, heck no!”
On the subject of football Game is good, but, unfortunately, it is yet another “religious” movie with nothing significant to say theologically or Christologically. In no way does it avoid the disagreeableness of human nature, especially that of high school football players, but neither does it avoid clichés. The bullying father of a running back is one of them. The movie has so many flaws it deserves the equivalent of a 15 yard penalty.
Larry Stevens (Dick Powell), the main character in It Happened Tomorrow (1944), is a newspaper reporter who miraculously receives, for several successive days, tomorrow’s newspaper with tomorrow’s news—i.e., the future is revealed—and he begins to exploit this marvelous knowledge.
The story is set in America in the late 1800s, and it is interesting to see such a setting without the presence of cowboys and cattle ranches. But like the Western stuff, It Happened Tomorrow is a fantasy. It was directed by Rene Clair of France, active in Hollywood for a while, and everything Clair touched turned to pixie dust. He kept his movies nicely fey: this one is an enchanting comic Twilight Zone, and a soothing love story. Tain’t original: the film derives from a play and a novel, but Clair makes it his own.
Alice Munro’s “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” is a clever if almost dull short story about a married woman with Alzheimer’s who, while in a nursing home, grows emotionally attached to another woman’s husband, also with Alzheimer’s. It makes for a truly impressive film adaptation written and directed by actress Sarah Polley, who gives adequate attention to the sorrow and strain delivered to the sick patient’s once unfaithful husband (Gordon Pinsent). Almost dull? No. It’s absorbing. Though often with eyes too bright for an Alzheimer’s patient, Julie Christie acts with more savvy and affecting skill than she ever did in the past. Polley’s nursing-home shots are engagingly true, and her closeups make Away From Her (2006), the picture’s title, an exquisite drama of faces, especially when the camera is on Christie.
The film deals with the fallen-world madness of advanced age. The dying of a mind and the toll it takes, the senior citizen’s (ugh, that term!) longing for human consolation and companionship—this is the film’s thematic content. Culpability is another theme.
I’d like to make one more observation: Away From Her ends with Fiona, the lady with Alzheimer’s, struggling with her words as she expresses her gratitude to her husband. “You could have just driven away,” she says. “Just driven away and forsook me. Forsooken me. Forsaken.” “Not a chance,” the husband replies. It’s a tender scene but, ah, he did forsake her, really, by sleeping with Olympia Dukakis. (One more act of adultery for Pinsent’s character.) Such a thing never takes place in Munro’s story, a wise move on her part. It renders the husband a more sympathetic, a nobler, protagonist. Polley certainly appears to be an artist; Munro certifiably is.