McFarland, USA – {Family Time}

Family time in the Off Kilter house comes in many shapes and sizes and flavors.  Sometimes, family time is cooking with my mini.  Sometimes, it means long arduous hours doing homework… Other times though, we’re catching a movie together either via Netflix or at a theater.  

Giant and I were fortunate enough to attend a screening of McFarland, USA this past week – yes, on a school night – and I have to say that the movie was great but it was the conversations after that really made my heart soar…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Disney's McFarland, USA

The movie is based on a true story and you likely already know how much I love those. I’m a sucker for reality that is good enough for the big screen.

Based on the 1987 true story, “McFarland, USA” follows novice runners from McFarland, an economically challenged town in California’s farm-rich Central Valley, as they give their all to build a cross-country team under the direction of Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner), a newcomer to their predominantly Latino high school. Coach White and the McFarland students have a lot to learn about each other but when White starts to realize the boys’ exceptional running ability, things begin to change. Soon something beyond their physical gifts becomes apparent—the power of family relationships, their unwavering commitment to one another and their incredible work ethic. With grit and determination, the unlikely band of runners eventually overcomes the odds to forge not only a championship cross-country team but an enduring legacy as well. Along the way, Coach White realizes that his family finally found a place to call home and both he and his team achieve their own kind of American dream.

For starters, the casting was perfect. Costner delivers a believable performance as Coach White and his wife, played by Maria Bello, was equally believable. {You may remember Bello from a number of her award winning performances over the years, but to me, she will always be Lil from Coyote Ugly.}

From the very beginning you see Coach White as human. Flaws and all. When he’s left with no other option but to accept a teaching and coaching position in less than his ideal scenario, his family is vocal in their displeasure. Stereotypes are challenged throughout the movie from both sides of the racial divide as we begin to see the characters as people… not races or professions or their past… but people.

McFarlandUSA54b05446f3243The use of setting was expertly used to demonstrate the contrast between McFarland and the more affluent Palo Alto from the landscaping to the students… to the coaches and parents. McFarland high sits in a dust bowl of a town in spitting distance to a correctional facility.  An image that replayed over and over again as if to remind the viewers that these kids had few options in front of them.  A stark comparison to the Palo Alto campus we see later in the film that reminded me of the school used in the movie Grease.

The best part of the movie though was the very end when we learn what happened next for these runners and their coach. I won’t spoil it, but I may have gotten a bit verklempt as they shared how so many continued to give back to the community that they love.  Either that, or someone was cutting onions in the theater…McFarland, USA

As a fair warning to those wondering if it is “age appropriate” for their {fill in the blank} year old, there is mild violence… smoking… drinking… but that’s not the focus of the movie. There are adult themes as well – gangs… teen pregnancy… etc.

Y’all already know that I won’t tell you how to parent, so judge for yourself but I think that most of the 9-10 yr olds I know would be able to handle the mature parts and enjoy the story.

After the movie, Giant and I had a lot to talk about… why people said/did what they did… how his life compared to that of the boys his own age on the screen… why stereotypes are dangerous.  And I love that.  I love a movie that initiates conversations that we SHOULD be having.

There will be those who talk about how this movie fits the “typical sports movie formula” and I won’t say they aren’t wrong… Coach is put in a difficult situation… has to convince kids to participate… has to convince parents to allow it… the underdog rises to victory… BUT, there was so much more to this tale that deserves to be told and that is what I loved about it.  


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. “McFarland, USA” releases February 20, 2015.


It’s never too late to join in on the Axis of Ineptitude blogging challenge. Play along in as many or few as you want!
February Blogging Challenge



  1. I’m not sure I’ve even seen a preview for this (DVR kind of ruins that). But it sounds like a good movie. I too am a sucker for based on true story movies. I’m hesitant as it’s Kevin Costner but I’ll give it a try. 🙂 But it is nice to have a movie create good conversation and not the opposite. Too many create issues and cause divides than do good.

Speak Your Mind