Saturday, January 6, 2018

Movie Reviews: Invincible

directed by Ericson Cole
This is an older feel good sports drama based on the true story of an everyday man who beat the odds and made the roster of a professional sports team, the Philadelphia Eagles. It ought to go without saying that the writers, studio and director made all sorts of changes to the storyline to make it more of a melodramatic tearjerker. YMMV. A lot of that wasn't necessary in my opinion. But just about all movies based on true stories take some liberties with the facts. It is what it is. These sorts of films aren't designed for deep viewer introspection or documentary level accuracy. Films like Invincible are designed to make the viewer feel better about his or her life. If the person in the story can try, fail, keep on trying, find love, and then ultimately succeed then perhaps the person watching can do the same thing. Invincible is an entertaining movie that will hopefully make you think about the challenges that you have faced in your life. Did you succeed? Are you still seeking out challenges?

Most of us aren't going to make the roster of an NFL team but a big part of the American Dream is that with hard work, determination and love of friends and family a man or woman can overcome obstacles and do anything that they want. A more cynical negative person might dismiss this sort of stuff as horrible capitalist individualistic propaganda that prevents people from making the sorts of systemic group changes that need to be made in society. Perhaps. But all the same art is not necessarily bound to political needs. Sometimes art is just art. And people do need dreams.

Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg) is a thirty year old substitute teacher/part time bartender in mid seventies Philadelphia. He doesn't make a lot of money, something his wife Sharron (Lola Glaudini) isn't shy about throwing in his face. Vince's main outlet for fun and to purge bad feelings from confrontations with his wife is playground football with his neighborhood buddies, These games can get kind of harsh but there's rarely any bad feelings. There are labor troubles in the city. Some of Vince's friends/relatives have lost jobs or are worried that that they will lose their job. Vince is unpleasantly surprised the next day when the school principal lays him off. That night at the bar Vince sees on television that the new Eagles coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear), desperate to shake up a losing team culture, has announced that there will be open tryouts for team roster spots. Thinking about it, Vince returns home to find that Sharron has left him. Sharron has also left Vince a mean letter telling him that he's not s*** and will never be more than that. Vince throws all of his wife's stuff out but keeps the letter as motivation to prove to the world, and more importantly, himself, that Sharron was wrong.
At the bar the next night Vince sees that the owner Max (Michael Rispoli) has hired his cousin Janet (Elizabeth Banks) as co-bartender. Janet and Vince both like the way the other looks. Janet knows as much about sports as any male fan. Vince is impressed by that. Goaded on by his buddies and to a lesser extent Janet (even though she's a passionate Giants fan and despises the Eagles) Vince decides to attend the open tryout in the morning, even though he's never played college football.

You can pretty much guess what happens next based on the first paragraph. The veteran NFL players are not pleased to have to watch and even possibly compete with people they view (mostly correctly) as couch potatoes, wannabes, male groupies, stumblebums and old men. This is, as mentioned, a predictable feel good movie. However it doesn't stint on showing the brutal bottom line nature of football both as a sport and as a business. If you can't produce or if someone can do your job better than you people will get rid of you. Every single football position on and off of the field is a competitive one. Any weakness or edge is ruthlessly exploited. There's not a lot of room for friendship. Vince will have to prove himself before anyone takes him seriously. One of the hits which Wahlberg took was actually real because supposedly the extra (a real college football player) couldn't resist putting the wood to a Hollywood star. The director decided to keep it in the movie for its vermisilitude. I believe the extra was let go because of that incident. The budding romance between Vince and Janet is fun to watch. 

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