After last night’s dynamic and captivating premiere of HBO’s Prayer For A Perfect Season, I can’t help but smile at both the timing of its release and the purity that it represents. Director Marc Levin, (Brick City, Protocols of Zion and The Last Party, amongst other works) has always been known as someone that does not pull any punches as his high-stakes mentality explores the human element of each story he follow. Prayer For A Perfect Season is no different as the human side drives this film forward with every scene, floor burn and four-letter word – which starts and stops with love. The love of the game; the love of team; the love of family; and perhaps most valuable of all, the love of the journey.
With four future Division I players, a nationally renowned head coach, a rivalry which words don’t do justice, and financial obstacles which are another example of a system gone wrong, St. Patrick High School (Elizabeth, N.J.) is quite easy to root for. With so much negative energy surrounding both our country’s economy and the current state of the NBA, it is wonderful to see the game on the big screen in its purist form.
Coach Kevin Boyle sets the tone of the film thanks to both his drive to will these young men to succeed, as well as his moments of weakness that can be attributed to both his competitive fire and at times impatience with the inconsistencies of youth. Boyle proves without a doubt that there is still a place for that “old school” approach to success both on the court and in the coach’s box, as his unfiltered raw emotion is both genuine and entertaining.
What hooked me right away was that these kids, starting with current Kentucky freshman Michael Gilchrist, seem to appreciate both the opportunity they have and – just as important – each other. Between his 70-mile journey to school every morning and the national attention he was getting on a daily basis, Gilchrest’s ability to overcome a family tragedy – which is woven seamlessly into the story – is beyond impressive. He is a perfect example of a star player whose mere presence raises the level of those around him, which is evident in a number of the on-court battles that St. Pat’s finds itself in.
Throughout the film we are reminded of the burden that many of these young men carry with them, whether it is to be their family’s first to attend college, or in Derrick Gordon‘s case, to carry on every day while his twin brother is serving five years in prison on a gun charge. This not only affects Gordon’s psyche, but also his health as he develops acid reflux midseason and falls 15 pounds under his playing weight.
The journey that these young men, their families and Coach Boyle take is one of great emotion that I hope will carry all involved forward into their next chapters of life. Though they fell to arch-rival St. Anthony High School (Jersey City, N.J.) in the postseason, the film and their journey did not end in the locker room at Rutgers that evening. Instead, as it should have, it ended at their graduation.
What do you think? What was your takeaway from the film?
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