McFarland, USA Film Review Including Quotes From Director Niki Caro #McFarlandUSAEvent #XC

It’s finally here!!  It’s the day that McFarland, USA comes out in theaters!  

Inspired by the 1987 true story, McFarland, USA follows novice runners from McFarland, an economically challenged town in California’s farm-rich Central Valley, as they give their all to build a cross-country team under the direction of Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner), a newcomer to their predominantly Latino high school. Coach White and the McFarland students have a lot to learn about each other but when White starts to realize the boys’ exceptional running ability, things begin to change. Soon something beyond their physical gifts becomes apparent—the power of family relationships, their unwavering commitment to one another and their incredible work ethic. With grit and determination, the unlikely band of runners eventually overcomes the odds to forge not only a championship cross-country team but an enduring legacy as well. Along the way, Coach White realizes that his family finally found a place to call home and both he and his team achieve their own kind of American dream.

McFarland, USA is directed by director Niki Caro, who also directed such films as Whale Rider & North Country.  Born in New Zealand, Caro is self-taught in film through only reading narrative film books. When asked her how directing this movie was different from other movies she has directed in the past.  She told us it was very similar since she has a specific way she wants to work.

McFarland, USA Director Niki Caro | Credit: Silvia Mtz at Mama Latina Tips

I figured out the way I work best. Which is real stories and real people. Go to the real community. Ask for their collaboration. Keep my eyes and my ears open and my mouth shut. And just see how life is lived. Be really observant. -Niki Caro

McFarland, USA stars Kevin Costner as a winning high-school football coach, Jim White, who is fighting a losing battle with his temper and his career.  He winds up exiled to the only job he can land, as assistant coach at a poor school in a poverty-stricken rural community, McFarland, Ca.

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Moving his two girls and wife, played by Maria Bello, cross-country to a little poverty-stricken town that seems less than fit for their family, White (Costner) is quickly banished to extra phys-ed teaching duty because he can’t get along with the head coach. This is where he discovers that the local Hispanic students have both a natural running talent and a strikingly determined work ethic. With a little determination he forms a cross-country team at the school with a few of the boys from his phys-ed class, despite the fact that he barely has enough runners for a team, and that he’s never coached the sport before.

Through out the story, White strives to give them hope, self-discipline and a new pride. Along the way he learns something about the close-knit farm-working families, and how athletics is considered an unnecessary expenditure of time, a luxury only anglos can afford. Eventually, White, whose athletes call “Blanco”, earns their respect and learns how to motivate them by learning what they go through on a daily basis.

So humble and so generous to those boys. It was very, very moving for me to watch the way — how fatherly he was with them. And equally the boys– what the boys did to him. They are so irreverent. And they really bought out his tenderness and his humility. -Niki Caro

Costner does well portraying White, a man who expects others to work as hard as he does, and develops a little humility along the way.  The team of talented young actors who play his athletes all bring complexity to these characters…two of them actually run for McFarland, and another is on the McFarland soccer team (but we’ll talk about that more on Monday).

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When asked what her favorite scene was in McFarland, USA, Caro’s answer didn’t surprise me..

There’s a scene, it’s really small. The kids go in the bus to the meet.  And there are kids holding signs in the road and they’re running behind the bus. And there’s no sound except just for Antonio Pinto’s music. And in the screenplay I’d written, this is the first time the boys were heroes in their lives. -Niki Caro

Niki Caro didn’t anticipate what a profoundly American film she made. That still amazes her. She mentioned that something Kevin Costner said she not only agreed with but it will continue to resonate in her for the rest of her life.

There is nothing more American than parents wanting more for their children.  Doing everything for their children. -Kevin Costner

I’m from New Zealand. I’m a parent. My family is more important to me than any of this. What I observe in this country is how parents are so into their kids here. And it’s so amazing. It’s so amazing. I think this movie shows us and gives us a  really accurate reminder of the lengths to which parents will go to give their children a better life. Nothing is more inspiring than that. And nothing is more American than that. -Niko Caro

McFarland, USA is a well-made feel-good film that has the advantage of being true.  It’s a film for the whole family to see, I know I’m taking my boys this weekend.  See you at the Movies!


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McFARLAND, USA is rated PG and is now playing in theaters everywhere!

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Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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