The preceding clip is ‘plundered’ from an enduring favourite, Finding Forrester, first released sixteen years ago on this day. I must clarify that I am not 100% sure about the film’s initial release. While some outlets have this as early as 20 December, others list it as 22 December. Regardless, the scene captures the heart of the movie. Basketball plays a big part, and you could taste the bitterness in the trash talking between Wallace and Harper. The ensuing back and forth game at the charity stripe, where both combatants sink fifty straight free throws, is made for the movies. The final line caps off the drama, with olive skinned Harper taunting Wallace, who hails from the projects. ‘You might think we’re the same; you’re wrong’.
Made for the Yuletide
Some might dismiss this scene outright, saying it’s a load of rubbish. I say it’s a stroke of ingenuity, combining hoop dreams, racial tensions, and trash talk all in one frame. The whole movie isn’t that bad either. The plot revolves around a black teenager (Wallace) who gets accepted to Mailor Callow, a prestigious Gotham prep school. While going on a dare from his pals, he meets the reclusive writer William Forrester, a white loner who happened to win the Pulitzer Prize on his first try. The developing relationship between Forrester and Wallace is a joy to watch. The film’s release during the Yuletide season has been timely, extending the message of trying new things and reaching out. Here you’ve got two extremes, at one end is Forrester, a guy who had it all and lost it just as suddenly. On the other hand there’s Wallace, who swaps his Bronx existence for life as the star player in a private school, where the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) majority ostracises him.
Meanwhile, on the court, Jamal wins seventeen straight matches, but his nemesis, professor Crawford, accuses him of plagiarism. Perhaps the most gripping scene of all is when Jamal has a chance to win them the state chip. He looks at his girl friend before glimpsing said professor. He promptly flubs both free throws.
‘Those two foul shots at the end, did you miss them, or did you *miss* them?
‘Not much of a soup question now is it?’
In the aftermath of ‘flubgate’, he manages to sneak into the library, penning a monumental essay showing he’s wise beyond his years. Basketball may be nice, but it’s not everything. The runner down the lane is just a means to an end.
The film remains relevant to this day. Finding Forrester is a reminder for youths everywhere to ‘make the most of now’. Even as others are dwindling their twenties, we should not waste our teens. ‘Sixteen…remarkable,’ utters another professor upon hearing Jamal’s handiwork. You might be wondering why I am doing this piece on the picture’s sixteenth anniversary. Two of the movie’s main characters, Jamal and Claire (Anna Paquin), were sixteen at the time of filming. Rob Brown was particularly riveting as Jamal, especially given he had no prior acting experience. Moreover, the film boasted four Oscar winners, from Sean Connery (Forrester) to F. Murray Abraham (professor Crawford). Spoiler: there is even a special cameo by an Oscar winner in the end. The film shows that age does not define greatness, whether in acting or writing. Indeed, as Jamal Wallace reveals, a sixteen year old can go toe to toe with a seasoned professor, and astound an entire private school audience. Clearly, the precocious teen’s skills extend a bit FURTHER than the basketball court.
Almost no one may be able to win the Pulitzer at their first go, or stumble upon one while honing their craft. But for us mere mortals we can start by constantly practicing to better our writing, like never starting a sentence with ‘but’. While some of us still dream of winning big, the movie shows that the big prize is not for the faint hearted. Having the skill is one thing, and putting in the hours is another, but success is next to nothing without the courage to face adversity. A string of bad reviews doesn’t make a bad career; the loss of a loved one should not mean the end of you.
At this point we end the sermon thus:
‘Losing family obliges us to find family…’
I want to exclaim, to the loyal follower, before going outta sight:
‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!’