Today, February 20, 2015, the new film “McFarland, USA” is being release to U.S. theaters nationwide through Disney Studios. The film, starring Kevin Costner is based on a true story which took place in 1987 in Southern California. Costner plays Coach Jim White who is on a downward spiral and lands in McFarland, California, a small poor agrarian town made up of 95% Hispanic population, as an assistant high school coach.
Disney’s “McFarland, USA” stars Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Morgan Saylor, Martha Higareda, Michael Aguero, Sergio Avelar, Hector Duran, Rafael Martinez, Johnny Ortiz, Carlos Pratts, Ramiro Rodriguez, Danny Mora, Valente Rodriguez, Vanessa Martinez, Chris Ellis and Diana Maria Riva, and is directed by Niki Caro with screenplay by Christopher Cleveland & Bettina Gilois and Grant Thompson, and story by Cleveland & Gilois. Gordon Gray and Mark Ciardi are producing, with Mario Iscovich and Mary Martin serving as executive producers.
Initially, like a number of white Americans, White and his family are scared of what they are not familiar and fear the residents as well as their new surroundings. White and his family eventually realize the Latinos are little different from white America and have a strong commitment to their families and work hard to move forward in life. White eventually realizes, and takes value in the fact, many of the male high school students have an exceptional running ability so White starts McFarland’s first high school running team. As with many films of this nature, the new team has some triumphs and some setbacks, but the team begins to excel and White gets noticed.
White is recruited for a high-paying track and field coaching job in Palo Alto; however, turns it down in favor of establishing roots in McFarland, California. White and his family realize relationships are more important than money and develop a love for the people of McFarland.
As most films of this nature tend to be, “McFarland, USA” is predictable. We have seen it with “The Freedom Writers,” “Coach Carter,” “We Are Marshall” and a long list of other inspirational movies. The small guy beats the big guy theme is as ancient as David v. Goliath and it seems to work at the box office. There are some “pull on your heart string” moments, but they are few and far between. The ending has a nice surprise and we get to see what the future brought to many of the runners in the true story.
While this movie will undoubtedly help give McFarland, California a boost in sudden tourist revenue, it is a movie that will either leave you bored if you’re tired of this Hollywood formula being used so often or you will walk out of the theater feeling inspired and full of hope for America. One item of hope, and perhaps an intent of the producers, is it will help bridge race relations within the United States as people see that people of different races are not very different from each other. That Americans should stop being scared are suspicious of others that are not like themselves.