The Miracle Season brings two academy award-winning actors and a bevy of competent performances by younger people together with a compelling true story to create a fine genre film which unfortunately does not transcend its milieu.
The true story that's told in The Miracle Season is that of the 2011 season of the girls' volleyball team at the Iowa City West High School. The team had won its first ever state championship in 2010 but lost a key player in a fatal traffic accident just before the beginning of the 2011 season. That player was Caroline "Line" Found. Caroline was the team captain and was adored by all who knew her. Her death, of course, devastated the team as well as the entire community. We learn from the film that over four thousand people attended her wake. So, The Miracle Season is the story of how the girls dealt with their grief and overcame this tragedy to win the state championship again in 2011.
Unfortunately, the extent to which the team and all its fans play in memoriam of Caroline seems a bit extreme and, in a strange way, almost exploitative. However, we all deal with traumatic events in different ways, and if dedicating their season to Caroline and having all their fans wear "Live Like Line" T-shirts works for them, then at least they found a way to make it through adversity and come to terms with the death of a teammate.
As a sports movie, The Miracle Season falls flat. For one thing, the scenes of the girls' games are very poorly edited. It seems that the actors could not imitate actual volleyball games so we a see a lot of montage and hardly any complete play appears on screen. Instead, we see a serve in close-up and the corresponding dig in close-up but never the ball in flight. This film technique gives all the game play an artificial feel when we should be reveling in the action stemming from passionate play.
At one point, we find Caroline's Dad, played by William Hurt, alone at the kitchen table with Kathy Bresnahan, the girls' coach, played by Helen Hunt. One would hope this would be the highlight of the film as two best actor winners play off each other demonstrating mastery of their craft. Sadly, this scene yields nothing of note. Hunt's performance in The Miracle Season is good enough for genre film standards but is certainly not remarkable. Hurt, on the hand, delivers a bewildering portrayal of Ernie Found. Hurt himself seems confused and puts a sort of feeble spin on the character. It's all a bit mediocre and disappointing.
As the girls advance in the state championship tournament, they travel to play in a bigger city. In what could charitably be called an homage to Hoosiers, the team visits a large stadium they will play in when no one's around. The girls look around in awe at the size and relative luxury of the arena. But The Miracle Season is nowhere near giving us conflict and character development at a Hoosiers level. The film succeeds as a genre film, but there's nothing here for those who don't enjoy Lifetime movies.