THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON

THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON

(director/writer: Jason Miller; screenwriter: play by Jason Miller; cinematographer: John Bailey; editor: Richard Halsey; music: Bill Conti ; cast: Robert Mitchum (Coach), Bruce Dern (George), Paul Sorvino (Phil), Martin Sheen (Tom), Stacy Keach (James), Arthur Franz (Macken), Michael Bernosky (Jacks), Joseph Kelly (Malley); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus; Golan-Globus Productions; 1982)

The director’s inexperience before the camera shows, and what made it a great play only makes it a runner-up as a film.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

That Championship Season was adapted from Jason Miller’s play, which won the Pulitzer Prize. It was filmed on-location in Scranton, Pennsylvania, which was Miller’s hometown. It was the only film the playwright and actor Miller directed. Miller was noted in cinema for playing Father Damien Karras in the Excorcist.

Four high school teammates and pals (Bruce Dern, Stacy Keach, Martin Sheen and Paul Sorvino) and their former coach (Robert Mitchum) have a reunion after 25 years to celebrate the year they won the Pennsylvania State High School Basketball Championship.

They spend the night at the coach’s house looking back at their youth, noting significant moments from the old days that influenced them, talking about their careers, baring their souls and hashing things out over their current lives. Things start out sprightly but the mood becomes less happy as the evening wears on and relationships are further tested.

Dern is revealed as the corrupt mayor of Scranton. Keach is his tough guy campaign manager and a frustrated junior high school principal, who gets things off his chest he never revealed before. Sheen is an alcoholic writer living in Los Angeles. Sorvino is a wealthy strip-miner businessman, with an eye for both fast cars and women. The retired coach is battling an ulcerated stomach. The motto he sold his boys on was “never take less than success.”  

The acting is excellent, but the narrative can’t shake off its stage roots and never becomes cinema friendly. It’s too talky and static to be much better than a decent watch. The director’s inexperience before the camera shows, and what made it a great play only makes it a runner-up as a film.

REVIEWED ON 9/27/2019       GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/   


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