blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

The Winning Season (2009, James C. Strouse)

Sam Rockwell stars in THE WINNING SEASON, directed by James C. Strouse for Lions Gate Films.

The Winning Season mentions Hoosiers at one point, which is good. It’s set in Indiana, it’s a basketball movie about an underdog team… there needs to be a Hoosiers reference. But it’s not Hoosiers with a girls basketball team, because it’s not really about the games.

Strouse’s approach is traditional. Take a lovable alcoholic misanthropic schmuck–Sam Rockwell–and let him redeem himself throughout the running time of the film as he discovers he’s capable of being a positive in someone else’s life. In this case, a girls basketball team.

What The Winning Season has going for it is a director who knows how to direct conversation scenes (the games are never vibrant–but it’d be out of place here), a really good script (the girls are a little tame off court, except Rooney Mara, who’s shacking up with a forty-something shoe salesman) and Rockwell. It’s maybe not Rockwell’s most dynamic, searching performance, but it’s Rockwell with a good script. It’s amazing acting.

He gets a lot of support from the supporting cast. None of the basketball team girls are bad. Meaghan Witri and Emily Rios are probably the best besides Mara, who gets lucky have the most drama. Emma Roberts is okay, nothing more. She’s affable.

Rob Corddry is really good here. I usually find him annoying, not here. It’s just a solid performance. Really nice work here from Margo Martindale too.

It’s a surprisingly good film. Having Rockwell helps a lot, but Strouse does an excellent job.



Written and directed by James C. Strouse; director of photography, Frank G. DeMarco; edited by Joe Klotz; music by Ed Shearmur; production designer, Stephen Beatrice; produced by Kara Baker, Galt Niederhoffer, Celine Rattray, Daniela Taplin Lundberg and Gia Walsh; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Sam Rockwell (Bill), Emma Roberts (Abby), Rob Corddry (Terry), Emily Rios (Kathy), Rooney Mara (Wendy), Jessica Hecht (Stacey), Connor Paolo (Damon), Meaghan Witri (Tamra), Melanie Hinkle (Mindy), Shana Dowdeswell (Molly), Vanessa Gordillo (Flor), Shareeka Epps (Lisa) and Margo Martindale (Donna).


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