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Believe in Me


The Advocate



Believe In Me

Reviewed by Phillip Tomasso III

"...more than just a feel-good film. It is simply inspiring."

It’s hard to know for sure if I enjoy sports movies because I love sports, or if it’s because of the overall sense of teamwork, and (generally) winning against all odds theme that encompasses the genre. From The Bad News Bears to Remember the Titans, I think I’ve seen just about every sports movie ever made. And to be honest, I have enjoyed them all.

When I received the movie Believe In Me for review, I took a look at it and assumed it would basically be A League of Their Own, but instead of Tom Hanks coaching a girls' baseball team, it would be Jeffrey Donovan coaching a girls basketball team.

I just finished watching Believe In Me, and immediately after watching the rolling credits sat down at my computer to write this review. Normally I write book reviews. Have been doing so for nearly eight years. So I didn’t want to wait on writing the review and risk not capturing the essence of what I hope to convey to readers about this film.

Although I don’t normally just admit this freely, I am an emotional person. I am easily sucked into movies. If they’re good. But let me start with the facts. Believe In Me is a film based on the Newbery-Award winning author Harold Keith’s novel, and it tells the story of Coach Jim Keith. Not sure why in the film the coach’s name is changed to Clay Driscoll. Anyway, it is 1964 when Clay Driscoll (Jeffrey Donovan) and his wife, Jean (Samantha Mathis) move to Midleton, Oklahoma. This small farming town is in the middle of a serious drought. Money is tight and the residents uptight. Clay’s been lured to Midleton with his first opportunity to coach the high school boys' basketball team after working years as an assistant coach. It is his dream job come true. However, he quickly learns that the head of the school board, Ellis Brawley (Bruce Dern), has turned the tables. The job coaching boys' basketball is no longer available. The only position open is for Clay to coach the Lady Cyclones girls' basketball team.

Confident that the job is only temporary, Clay uneasily accepts the position. Now, he’s faced with turning a losing school team into something presentable, or he can kiss his dream of ever working as a head coach for a boys' team goodbye. Unfortunately, the girls' team is off the school board and even the town radar. They don’t win games. They don’t draw crowds. Which means they don’t generate any money. Forced to wear hand-me down warm-up suits, and uniforms that are shabby and tattered, an overall sense of low self-esteem is what Driscoll has to work with.

By the beginning of their second basketball season, Driscoll learns that he is more than a coach to many of the girls on his team. Unable to generate support from the school board, Driscoll becomes an apparent thorn-in-their-side as he dedicates his time, money and skills in hopes of taking his Lady Cyclones to the State Championship game.

Believe In Me has short scenes. This keeps the story moving at a quick pace, tension always building. Donovan’s performance as an often humble, insecure and yet determined Clay Driscoll was amazing, and believable. Although you only get to know a small handful of the players on his team, the lives Driscoll effects is powerful. Mathis provides an excellent performance as Driscoll’s foundation. She portrays the supportive wife with individuality and creativity. And by the end of the film you so strongly dislike Ellis Brawley that you can’t deny Bruce Dern’s outstanding performance.

I am not going to document how many times this film moved me to tears. It was more than once. But far less than ten times (wink, wink). There are so many tender, and exciting moments that reaching for tissue so often made no sense, and I was forced to rely on my sleeve more often than not. Engrossing, moving, and triumphant, Believe In Me has become one of my favorite sports films, sharing space in my mind with the likes of Radio, Coach Carter and Hardball. This is more than just a feel-good-film. It is simply inspiring.

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Phillip Tomasso IIIThomas Phillips grew up with a reading disability. He did everything possible not to read. It wasn’t until he was in seventh grade that he finally read a book cover to cover. Now a voracious reader and prolific writer, Phillips uses his accomplishments as a motivational backdrop for speaking at school assemblies. Born and raised in Rochester, New York, Phillips has worked as a freelance journalist and currently works full time as an employment law paralegal. When he isn’t writing, Phillips plays guitar, is active at his church, coaches his children’s Little League teams, co-leads Ink Spots and Coffee Grounds—a creative writing group, and plots his next story. The Molech Prophecy is his first published Christian novel. Visit him online at his Shoutlife page & Myspace page.