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Overall Rating

Awesome: 22.22%
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Pretty Crappy77.78%
Sucks: 0%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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5th Quarter, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Every uplifting technique in the book, and nothing else."
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2010 BOSTON FILM FESTIVAL: "The 5th Quarter" doesn't look like a bad movie. It's well-produced, it has a nice cast, and single scenes taken in isolation look pretty good. Put it all together, though, and it becomes an unending stream of inspirational sport movie clichés that I feel bad about calling laughable, as it seems to be based on the lives of genuinely good people.

Teenager Luke Abbate (Stefan Guy) has everything going for him - loving parents (Aidan Quinn and Andie MacDowell) and siblings, and he's got the potential to be an even better football player than his older brother Jon (Ryan Merriman), who's a starter at Wake Forest (though, at the time, it's not a nationally renowned program). However, that will all be cut short, as he's involved in a single-car accident due to a friend's reckless driving. His loss leaves a void in his family, although Jon's teammates dedicate their season to him, and begin to defy expectations.

I don't care for football, but I've enjoyed movies centered around the game, from Harold Lloyd's The Freshman (silent comedy genius from start to end) to George Clooney's Leatherheads, so I feel reasonably confident in saying that it's not the game itself that makes me not care for The 5th Quarter. It's that the movie is less a story than an ordered collection of things that happened, laid out in such a way that what writer/director Rick Bieber wants the audience to think and feel is never in even the slightest doubt. Many movies do that, but few do it so obviously as this, and that's before considering the extremely incongruous moments.

For the obvious ones, consider the scenes while Luke is laying in the hospital in a vegetative state. A representative of an organ donation group comes in, speaks to father Steven and mother Maryanne about what her organization does, half looking directly at the audience the whole time, creating an opportunity for Quinn and MacDowell to deliver lines on how this is the Right Thing to Do, before we see Ben's heart transplanted into a single mother in New York whom we had seen briefly to make sure we loved her and thus considered the transplant heroic and right (but who will disappear until some more heartstrings need pulling at the end). This is, naturally, surrounded by scenes of the whole town tearfully saying goodbye; throughout the movie, we get scenes of everybody being perfectly understanding, nice, and accommodating. Bieber simply cannot leave anything to chance, and as a result things come off as mawkish.

Still, being positive and sympathetic shouldn't itself be a punishable offense. It's that Bieber so often has a hard time pulling them together into a smooth narrative that really grates. For instance, we get a number of scenes of Jon, lost and saddened, unable to attend football practice (although everybody on the team is supportive and telling him to take all the time he needs to feel right). Finally, a teammate says, hey, why don't we get home and get your head straight - and then, practically as soon as they're back home, they're meeting a new trainer and we've got a conditioning montage. It's something like a minute between "let's get away from this" and undergoing intense training, without any sort of transition at all. Later, we're told Maryanne is having trouble holding together, we see her snap at a neighbor, and then that bit is dropped completely. Bieber also fails to do much to tie Luke to the Wake Forest team and Jon to the unexpected success. It becomes a standard underdog story, except that folks in the crowd will hold up five fingers for Luke's (and now Jon's) number 5 jersey, which makes the Abbates feel good but doesn't feel tied strongly to the team - the movie never transforms Jon's personal tragedy into the team's cause.

The disappointment lands squarely on Bieber. The cast isn't doing great work - it's the sort of biopic where you get the feeling that the cast members have all met the people that they are playing, and were more concerned with not putting them in a bad light than creating a nuanced, potentially flawed character - but they're seldom doing a bad job. Quinn occasionally over-emotes, and Merriman sometimes underplays, but not too badly. It's just that they've got no place to go; every one of them is a paragon of either noble grieving or understanding and support.

It feels terrible to dislike a movie this good-hearted - there really should be a place for stories about good people doing good things without having to invent villains or twisting it into an ethical dilemma. "The 5th Quarter", unfortunately, tries to do so without craft or nuance - from ten or fifteen minutes in, it's clearly a bad movie about good people, and it never becomes more than that.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=21554&reviewer=371
originally posted: 10/04/10 00:59:15
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Boston Film Festival For more in the 2010 Boston Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/01/11 Bill Knight Great. Saw several games with Abbate and his five finger salute. Enjoyed movie very much 5 stars
3/28/11 Eliza Roberts I thought it was terible and undermined the inspirational story of the Abbate family. 2 stars
3/26/11 Diane Palladino LOVED it! And so did the rest of the audience. 5 stars
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  25-Mar-2011 (PG-13)
  DVD: 30-Aug-2011



Directed by
  Rick Bieber

Written by
  Rick Bieber

  Andie MacDowell
  Aidan Quinn
  Ryan Merriman
  Andrea Powell
  Anessa Ramsey

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