SXSW 2023: Blackberry, Problemista, The Long Game | Festivals and Awards

My biggest surprise at SXSW was probably Julio Quintanaof “The Long Game,” a movie that looks on paper like another cookie-cutter heartwarming game show but transcends its clichés by being honest in its characters and artistic in its approach. I’m sad to say that I saw a lot of shows at SXSW that looked like TV, but it was clear from the beginning that Quintana learned a lot from his mentor. Terrence Malick—Quintana worked on “The Tree of Life“and”Into the Wonder.” There’s a filmmaking charm here, a grace in the way Quintana approaches his characters and the natural world, that elevates the narrative. Yes, some of the writing falls into cliché, and it’s not an unpredictable film, but there’s something about seeing an old story that’s so well told.

Jay Hernandez stars as JB Pena, a WWII vet in ’50s Del Rio, Texas, who becomes superintendent and wants to join the local country club. Of course, that would not be allowed in this day and age, and “The Long Game” so blatantly uses caricatures of powerful, Southern white men that are blatantly racist. Sure, that exists, but the monsters that run the golf community in 1956 Texas are pretty two-dimensional here.

The film gets its energy from the kids Pena meets who caddy at the club and form their own golf team. Pena realized that this crew, led by the excellent Julian works as Joe Trevino, has what it takes to compete with anyone, and so they are included in a club competition. The crew members outside of Works are relatively unknown, but “The Long Game” succeeds in part because of the pitfalls of the sports film it avoids. When Dennis Quaid introduced as the alcoholic coach who can lead the boys to glory, it’s easy to see a white savior movie that could have done it, but Quintana and Quaid avoided it. I like how alcoholism doesn’t become the central story like a smaller film, and the movie doesn’t become the story of Hispanic kids saving a white guy or vice versa. She is only one part of this story, no more than the role played by Joe’s girlfriend (an excellent Paulina Chavez) in this saga. Quintana understands that the best approach to this story is a tapestry, which captures the many influences of a young person’s life—a new coach, a new boyfriend, his partner. players, etc.—and how they will shape a future. Indeed, the long game of human existence requires cooperation.

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