Lionsgate // 2010 // 86 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // May 3rd, 2010
You can't score without taking a shot.
There's a prevailing wisdom among film fans that independent movies are more original simply by virtue of the fact that they exist outside the traditional studio system. Sometimes, though, indie films are just the same rehashed Hollywood films we see every week, only with smaller budgets and lesser-known stars. Such is the case with the 2010 sports film/romantic comedy Coach, a movie that's been made at least a dozen times before, only this time it's on a much smaller scale. Writer/director Will Frears has very little to say beyond what he's learned from watching formula sports comedies, and while there's nothing particularly offensive about Coach, there's nothing new, either.
Hugh Dancy (Confessions of a Shopaholic) stars as Nick, a rich but unmotivated trust fund kid who happens to love soccer. When he's dumped by his actress girlfriend (Gillian Jacobs of Community, always good to see), Nick finally decides to take some responsibility and get a job coaching a middle school soccer team. Will his newfound sense of worth lead him into a relationship with a pretty doctor (Liane Balaban of Everybody's Fine, an appealing cross between Natalie Portman and Jessi Klein)? Will he teach the kids, or will it be Nick who learns from them? Will he come close to losing it all before stepping up to make everything right in the movie's final moments? No extra points for guessing correctly.
Here's the thing about Coach: while it lacks ambition and originality, it is charming and understated for most of its less-than-90-minute running time. Dancy is an affable lead, his scenes with Balaban are kind of sweet (though a date sequence at the opera feels contrived) and Jonathan Gutierrez, who plays Hector, the kid Nick gets closest to, feels authentic. The movie is familiar but modest, backed by a nice indie rock score and always taking time for some honest character beats (there's a good scene, for example, in which Nick talks to one of his young female players with questions about her sexuality; he's honest with her without being condescending, and Coach is smart not to make too big a thing out of it). Unfortunately, almost all of the goodwill generated by the movie is screwed up in the last third, when writer/director Frears feels the need to push the story into the most convoluted and formulaic places he possibly can. For most of the film, the problems of the characters in Coach feel real; the final act, though, gives everyone the problems of movie characters. It's no different than we see in any other slick, bigger-budget sports film (think of Hardball, for one) or romantic comedy, but Coach has built us up to expect something just a little better.
The copy of Coach I received for review was unfinished screener, meaning I cannot comment on the technical merits of the video or audio presentations. The disc contains no special features.
There is an audience for Coach, just as there is an audience for any of the half-dozen sports-themed movies Hollywood churns out each year. If the movie is especially disappointing, it's only because it had the potential to be a sports film for those of us uninterested in the traditional mainstream sports or romantic comedy. Will Frears has other plans, I guess.
Likable enough, but guilty just the same.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13