“A Timely tale of strong independent females” – Variety
“Somehow manages to be sweet and progressive, as well as a timely release in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp.” – GamesRadar
“Empowering not because it tells a story of girls triumphing in a man’s world, but because it shows us girls flourishing in their own world, on their own terms, surrounded by supportive friends and nice boys and well-meaning parents.” – Mashable
…oh wait, these are reviews for the movie Blockers, not The Miracle Season.
I gotta say that I was generally stunned that at the inverse reaction from critics about these two films. You have a movie that is basically a female version of a Seth Rogen film getting high praise for being progressive and pushing feminism (No seriously, NPR really said “The film is socially progressive in tone, delivers the big, broad hijinks of a Seth Rogen movie.”). Then you have a real-life inspiring tale of a group of high school girls who rally behind the memory of their fallen teammate to win back to back state titles…and critics are tearing it apart.
I wrote about the Rotten Tomatoes culture war not too long ago and seeing how this film got 35% with critics, but a 94% with audiences, while Blockers is certified fresh with 82% but audiences only gave it a mediocre 57% shows that the culture war theory is gaining more traction by the day.
But let’s talk about the movie, I had to see this for myself because perhaps there was a chance I was dead wrong about this film but I can safely say, I wasn’t. The Miracle Season is based on the real-life story of the Iowa City West High School volleyball team. Shortly after winning the Iowa state championship, the team captain and emotional leader, Caroline “Line” Found, dies in an accident. As an entire community is left devastated, Caroline’s best friend Kelley (Erin Moriarty) is left with the task of bringing the team together in the memory of her friend and in the process do what few teams did before and that’s winning back to back titles under emotionally impossible circumstances.
My one complaint about this film is the way it was shot. I couldn’t shake the feeling early on that I was watching a Disney Channel Original Movie. However, it makes sense knowing the director Sean McNamara, who is known for working on Disney projects during that time period. I felt like Sean should have worked at giving this film more of a “motion picture” feel especially with a story like this. Outside of that, I really enjoyed the way it was styled to not only honor the girls on that team but reenact the moments of their journey to a tee. Danika Yarosh who plays ‘Line’ has a real bubbly sometimes irrationally happy personality, but when you better understand that she was a teenage girl who was struggling to deal with the reality of her terminally ill mother, you understand it. Caroline’s story is an emotional one but what the film got right was showing her effect on a small town community and how she inspired the ones around her. Volleyball is a tough sport to drum up emotion for on screen for compared to basketball or football but the film does it best to mirror the events of the game exactly as they happened in the real footage so they can get away with being a little “Disney” with their efforts.
A Miracle Season at its core is a story that is as heartwarming as it is heart wrenching. I have some issues with the film’s style, but overall the real-life triumph of using grief to obtain redemption is a message that should hit home with many and at least with the case of audiences, actually did. If women going through the pains of sorrow, resilience, and faith to find success isn’t the ideal ‘feminist’ message for society, then it’s probably time to good look at what one’s definition of ‘feminism’ actually is.