Review – The 5th Quarter (2010)

Directors: Rick Bieber

Starring: Andie MacDowell, Aidan Quinn, Ryan Merriman

5th QuarterIn 2006 the Wake Forrest football team, widely tipped to come last in their division, enjoyed their most successful season in history. All the while one of the team’s stars, Jon Abbate, was trying to come to terms with the loss of his younger brother in a car accident. The 5th Quarter seeks to bring the inspirational true story of the Abbate family’s struggle and Wake Forrest’s triumph in the face of adversity, but falls well short of the mark.

While you may be forgiven for thinking The 5th Quarter is the latest in a long line of inspirational sporting movies, anyone looking for a sports movie will be disappointed. The struggle of the Abbate family takes centre stage, with the football storyline not kicking in until over a third of the way through. All of the games which make up the historic streak are pretty much glossed over, shot in a montage style combining actual ESPN footage with inserted shots of characters cheering from the sideline. Done this way to keep the budget down, there is no attempt to play up the tension and drama of the sporting contest.

All of the problems with this film flow from a poorly written screenplay. The 5th Quarter struggles to tie together the two storylines; the Abbate family’s grieving process and the football team’s success. We are supposed to believe that the two are inextricably linked, that the Abbate family’s struggle somehow inspired the team’s achievement, but the film doesn’t do a good job of making it clear how that is the case. As a result the two narrative threads fight against each other rather than complement each other.

The heavy handed dialogue means even seasoned professionals like Aidan Quinn and Andie MacDowell struggle, often overacting to make up for the blank performances of the rest of the cast. Unsubtle writing means every emotion is verbalised and often repeated in the off chance that you had missed it the first time, leaving no room for subtext. On top of this, the equally unsubtle backing music often commentates directly on the scene through its lyrics.

This is one only for the very easily inspired.

Rating – ★

Review by Duncan McLean

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