The Good: Friday Night Lights
Like religion, sports teams have the power to inspire their followers to be better than circumstances would normally allow. A team’s victory acts as a bulwark against the failures that exist in the lives of the players and their families off the field.
Friday Night Lights, based upon the best-selling non-fiction book by H.S. Bissinger, depicts a depressed Texas town and its worship of the football players who imbue them, temporarily, with a sense of purpose. The success of the film belongs, in part, to Billy Bob Thorton who plays the local football coach as someone who understands the absurdity of his job but is aware of its necessity to provide for his family. Here is a man who inspires his players not with rousing speeches but with quiet dignity.
Director Peter Berg (who later helmed the TV series of the same name) employs documentary-style filmmaking that lends a gritty realism to the action on and off the field. It’s so affecting that during the last minutes of the Big Game, we’re completely invested. Each victory and loss carries with it the weight of the town, and everyone, including the audience, is aware of it. What a powerful film.