On the eve of their high school graduation, two academic superstars and best friends realize they should have worked less and played more. Determined not to fall short of their peers, the girls try to cram four years of fun into one night.
Sam, a disenchanted young man, finds a mysterious woman swimming in his apartment's pool one night. The next morning, she disappears. Sam sets off across LA to find her, and along the way he uncovers a conspiracy far more bizarre.
David Robert Mitchell
There is very little basketball to be seen here - in fact I think there's only one scene where any characters actually play ball. But that lack of on-court action is the very point & purpose of the movie; the plot is driven by an NBA lockout wherein the players are being denied the opportunity to play the sport they love (and get paid for it), all because the "Powers That Be" feel they aren't making enough money from it themselves. This is a very real issue in modern sport, and this film seeks to confront many aspects of it; from the rich insular Establishment of western societies in general, to the very concept of human endeavour becoming a commodity for profit. And as the majority of NBA players are black and the owners white, the movie doesn't shy away from the issue of race either. Comparisons with slavery may seem heavy-handed, but the reality is that these black athletes' livelihoods are completely at the mercy of rich white men; their blood & sweat turned into dollars to fill their owners' pockets.
These are big, political issues atypical of your standard sports movie - anyone expecting a "gutsy underdog" story or a heartwarming tale of redemption through hard work & team spirit, will be sorely disappointed. This film is all about social commentary and witty dialogue, and the intentionally-underwhelming ending is clever yet pragmatic. There's no Rudy or Coach Carter to be found here; the central character has lofty ideals, but realistic expectations - he knows he's always playing someone else's game, and the rules are rigged against him.
High Flying Bird feels real, modern and urgent, in stark contrast to the feel-good dreamy nostalgia of most sports movies. Soderbergh makes his point well, and always delivers technical excellence in his filmmaking, so your appreciation of this film will depend entirely upon how interested you are in the issues it presents. But it feels like something of a landmark moment in the sports movie genre.
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