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Overall Rating
4.1

Awesome: 31.43%
Worth A Look51.43%
Just Average: 13.33%
Pretty Crappy: 2.86%
Sucks: 0.95%

9 reviews, 51 user ratings


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Friday Night Lights
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by EricDSnider

"It's football. What could be more important than that?"
4 stars

The people of Odessa, Texas, take high school football seriously, and "Friday Night Lights" treats it with just as much reverence. I saw the film in a theater full of high school football teams, and rather than being the rowdy, major league tools that football players usually are, they sat in respectful silence. I guess for them, this was like going to church.

I have no such veneration for football, but "Friday Night Lights" is a humdinger of a sports film, shot so it has the bleak, stark colors of a war movie, with gritty handheld camerawork to match. This is serious business, this high school football.

It's based on the true story of Odessa's 1988 Permian High School football season, as recounted in H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger's book "Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream." The film, directed by Bissinger's cousin Peter Berg and adapted by Berg and David Aaron Cohen, embraces wholeheartedly every sports-flick cliché, from the paternal coach to the hotshot quarterback to the thrilling last-minute victories -- but man, does it ever make them work. Berg stays true to the film's real-life roots and recreates everything matter-of-factly. Scenes that would be awkwardly melodramatic in lesser films -- a player learning his injuries will prevent him from ever taking the field again; a young man's run-ins with his abusive father -- are charged with emotion, but the emotion feels honest, rather than maudlin.

The coach is Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton), worshipped by the town as long as the team is winning, which is has generally done in past years. The film begins with the pre-season drills and ends with the final championship game, and Gaines' players are idolized by the small working-class town in between. This is a place where Friday nights find most local businesses closed with signs saying "Going to the game!" in the window. (If it seems strange that a town would focus this much on high school football, watch the documentary "Go Tigers!," which tells of a Ohio town that puts Odessa to shame.)

Mike Winchell (Lucas Black) cares for his aged mother (Connie Cooper), suffering from the onset of dementia, and must deal with additional pressure when he becomes starting quarterback following a knee injury for hotshot Boobie Miles (Derek Luke). (Boobie believed himself to be indestructible, making his destruction both poetic and predictable, but his pain is no less heartrending to watch.) Don Billingsley (Garrett Hedlund) is a good player but not a great one, and this angers his alcoholic father (Tim McGraw -- yes, Tim McGraw), who won a state championship playing for this same team and whose only passion now is to see his son relive his own glory days. Other players come in and out of focus, but it is those three -- Mike, Boobie and Don -- whose compelling stories are given the most attention.

Well, actually, what's given the most attention is the team as a unit, and more particularly, football, every aspect of it. The final game occupies fully 25 minutes of screen time, awesomely staged and filmed with a you-are-there mentality. After some games, we see a weary Gaines driving home, listening to the armchair quarterbacking of the know-it-all fans who call into the AM radio sports stations. He particularly does this after his team has lost, a form of self-flagellation that is only one of many details that ring true in the screenplay and in Thornton's down-to-earth performance.

I like that the film simply drops us into Odessa without explaining every little thing. We don't know exactly what's wrong with Mike's mother, for example, or why they call Mr. Miles "Boobie," or why the Permian Panthers' nickname is "MoJo." I'm sure all of this is common knowledge to the locals, but we're outsiders here. "Friday Night Lights" tells an engrossing story with such conviction and honesty, embedded in a surplus of stylistic flourishes, that it becomes one of the best sports movies in recent memory.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10978&reviewer=247
originally posted: 10/10/04 15:32:57
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell very good u should read the book as well both recommened 4 stars
1/14/09 Shaun Wallner Very Interesting 4 stars
5/02/07 David Pollastrini pretty dull 2 stars
10/18/06 alexzander duke it was a great movie one of my best 5 stars
7/04/06 William Goss Mercifully unsentimental, but exhausting in its town pressure and teen angst. 3 stars
3/18/06 Elizabeth Pretty good - worth a rent 4 stars
3/17/06 MP Bartley I detest American Football - yet, this is a great film. Thumpingly heartfelt. 4 stars
3/07/06 Carolyn Rathburn A good hometown movie 4 stars
3/07/06 myzzy Teen flick, not much more.. rent it vs movie theater to save some money 3 stars
3/06/06 Annie G This was ok, but I was sorry I had bought the DVD instead of renting it! 3 stars
1/03/06 Piz Just another "sports meets teenage angst" movies. Seen one, seen em all. 3 stars
12/12/05 joe mieres this movie was very heart felt and i could fell myself in there position. 5 stars
12/08/05 Frank Rountree A movie with a true and good story, can't go wrong here. 4 stars
11/15/05 Jodie GREAT!!!! LOVED IT 5 stars
11/14/05 Taylor Fladgate The only football movie better than "All the right moves" 5 stars
10/27/05 millersxing Failed to connect on a Hoosiers level with either the football or the personal lives 3 stars
10/20/05 Brandon Hudspeth this film was one of the greatest sports films ever made 5 stars
10/06/05 ed garza good 5 stars
8/08/05 Doremimi If watching people cry over football makes you roll your eyes, you'll wanna skip this one. 3 stars
7/10/05 Charlie The plot is pretty good, but Billy Bob is even better. 4 stars
6/08/05 R.W. Welch Engrossing fact-based gridiron yarn. No doubt hyped a bit but effectively done. 4 stars
5/03/05 Romes Best film of 2004 5 stars
3/29/05 Fred An average movie, constant camera angle changes make it seem like a home-made movie 3 stars
2/19/05 HL Nothing Deep Here..A Formula Movie...Bit Overdone...Visual Though 4 stars
2/14/05 Angela Saunders Typical football movie but if you love Tim McGraw or Billy Bob Thornton it is a must see! 4 stars
2/13/05 Jeanine Price Loved this movie 4 stars
2/05/05 Susan Chamberlain Pretty intense. Not a cheer you up movie. 4 stars
2/04/05 Colleen Goldrick good movie 4 stars
1/31/05 Robert Pfeifer A great football movie. Great acting and a nice storyline. 4 stars
1/30/05 Michael Lisanti Fantastic Movie, up there with the orginial Rocky in terms of sports movies. 5 stars
1/29/05 Carl Gorney Has the feel of a documentary-great job by alll 5 stars
1/29/05 Pete H Just because the film doesn't end in the cliche manner, doesn't make it an awesome movie!!! 3 stars
1/28/05 DONNA LONGWORTH REAL GOOD FOOTBALL MOVIE! 5 stars
12/12/04 rich cliched, no character developed, lame 2 stars
11/15/04 Mike V One of the darkest and best sports movies ever made 5 stars
11/03/04 Attorneychick Perfect depiction of Texas High School Football! Had no clue Tim McGraw can act?! 5 stars
10/26/04 Cindy It was a geat movie. I really connected with the characters and got involved in the movie. 5 stars
10/24/04 moviedude shows football as the all end all in the texas town, but does nothing else for this viewer. 2 stars
10/22/04 cristi definetly an accurate portrayal of Texas High School football 5 stars
10/19/04 Jake The movie was great, I felt like crying at the end, The music was very well done 5 stars
10/16/04 MR Damn this movie was tight. I'm a big football fan and it was the shit, it delivered. See it 5 stars
10/16/04 Vinnie B It takes guts to make a movie like this that avoids cliches and a feel good ending. 5 stars
10/16/04 mactheknight very good. Did not like all the close-ups 4 stars
10/16/04 Jeremy Burroughs its the best football ive ever seen 5 stars
10/12/04 Elizabeth The agony & ecstacy of football as a microcosm of smalltown life. Poignant and enjoyable. 4 stars
10/12/04 Desperado Great movie, based on a even greater book, Thorton and McGraw (?!) are great 5 stars
10/11/04 JW movie is more "faction" than anything--based on true story but significantly softened 5 stars
10/08/04 Kris Bad Santa teaches football. Who can resist? 5 stars
10/08/04 malcolm distracting camera work. also see "All The Right Moves" and documentary "Go Tigers." 4 stars
10/05/04 Jessica Hedrick more factual than the book it is based on, if you lived in w. texasd you'll love it 4 stars
10/03/04 Josh Standlee The ONLY good football movie is "Waterboy". Don't see this shit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  08-Oct-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 18-Jan-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  10-Mar-2005




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