Friday Night Lights (2004)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Sports Drama, Americana  |   Release Date - Oct 8, 2004 (USA)  |   Run Time - 118 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Friday Night Lights was billed as a "different kind of sports movie," but the film's greatest departure from brethren like Remember the Titans and Varsity Blues is stylistic, not substantive. Peter Berg's herky-jerky camera might bring in more indie-minded viewers than your typical football movie, but it adds little extra legitimacy to the standard components: the obsessive heartland town, the caustic parental pressure, the vein-popping coach, the long-odds push toward the big game. Since it's based on a true story, one can't blame any screenwriter (in this case, Berg) for concocting a bunch of "movie moments" -- only for choosing it as a story that needed telling. Even if it's not that much "different," Friday Night Lights does do a lot of things right. One of these is its handling of the requisite injured athlete facing an unknown future. Since revealing the character would constitute a spoiler, suffice it to say that the actor gives a performance of great burning frustration, drawing sympathy from the audience in a way that the character's previous swagger did not. But the film's most impressive performance goes to country singer and novice actor Tim McGraw, whose turn as a disappointed father is so intense, it leaves blood on the celluloid. These performances contribute to an overall detailed authenticity that's a credit to Berg, who has matured a lot since his previous two features, a popcorn action movie (The Rundown) and a mean-spirited black comedy (Very Bad Things). Maybe Berg is really what sets Friday Night Lights apart.