The Heart of the Game Review

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A high school girls' basketball team from Seattle fights for glory as does their star player, against all odds.


Inevitable comparisons to Hoop Dreams will be made about this chronicle of a girls high-school basketball team. But, while it's been solidly made, Ward Serrill's documentary misses too many opportunities truly to compel (despite its climactic drama).

The focus shifts far too often, with the initial profile of tax professor coach Bill Resler first being deflected by a scandal involving a star player who is abused by a private tutor and then by the saga of African-American ace Darnellia Russell, whose talent is compromised by her impoverished background and fiery temperament, before a pregnancy and a court case presage a run to the state championships.

A few gender preconceptions are challenged along the way, but while this is enjoyable it's a reality soap rather than a statement of social significance.

Shot over seven years, this is a film with its heart in the right place. But it shifts focus too often to hang together as an in-depth portrait of either the unconventional coach or his headstrong star player.