The Heart of the Game

Ward Serrill set out to make a short about college professor Bill Resler coaching his first season of girls' basketball at Seattle's middle-class Roosevelt High School, but the project mushroomed into a feature with the arrival of Darnellia Russell, an inner-city freshman who quickly became the team's star player but whose personal problems eventually overwhelmed her promise on the court. The resulting movie (2005) covers seven years and touches on some of the same social issues that gave Hoop Dreams its epic sweep, yet Serrill fails to treat any of them adequately, and the narrative loses its shape as events unfold. Grasping for closure, Serrill ends with a division showdown between Roosevelt and a crosstown rival, a hollow exercise after the life drama that's already transpired. PG-13, 98 min.

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