Ah, the parable of the prodigal son.
This is the Biblical parable about how the rich man who has two sons, both of whom are due to receive a large inheritance from their father. The younger son asks for his inheritance early and then leaves home, determined to make a life on his own. The older son stays at home and continues to loyally work for his father. Things don’t go well for the younger son. Before long, he’s broke, destitute, and desperate. For the longest time, the youngest son tries to avoid returning home. He doesn’t want to admit that he’s failed and he’s also scared of how his father will react.
Finally, though, the son does return home. He admits that he wasted his inheritance. He admits that he hasn’t been as responsible or faithful as his older brother. His father, though, forgives him and orders a large party to be thrown in his honor. The older son is not happy about this.
“Why,” the older son demands, “are you celebrating the return of Fredo when you’ve got Michael right here!?”
(Yes, in my version, they all love The Godfather.)
His father replies that he loves both of his sons equally and nothing will ever change that. But he is celebrating the return of his youngest son because “he was lost and now he’s found.”
It’s a parable that teaches a good lesson about forgiveness and the selflessness of parental love, regardless of whether you’re religious or not. Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s also a parable that has inspired any number of films. I mean, it’s inherent cinematic. Not only do you have a dramatic conflict between members of the same family but, before the forgiveness, comes the decadence. The parable of the prodigal son allows audiences to celebrate the younger son’s mistakes before also celebrating the eventual lesson that’s inspired by those mistakes.
2010’s Breaking The Press is based on the parable of the prodigal son, this time imagining the father as a high school basketball coach in rural Texas and his two sons as his star players. When one of his sons gets an offer to play basketball for a ritzy school in Dallas, he jumps at the opportunity. Unfortunately, things don’t go well in the big city. The prodigal son may be a good basketball player but he’s not mature enough to handle living away from his parents. Before long, he gets expelled from school and ends up living on the streets. Meanwhile, his father is coaching his team and his other son towards the state championship but will he be able to concentrate on the game when he learns what has happened? You can probably guess what this all leads to. I mean, I started off the review by sharing the parable and you did read all of that, right? You didn’t just skim it, did you?
In the end, Breaking the Press is a pleasant film. Even when the prodigal son ends up living on the streets, they’re not particularly frightening streets. By the standards of most prodigal son films, there’s not really much decadence to be found in Breaking the Press but that’s probably because the film was made for a family audience. That said, I kind of liked the film. Andrew Stevens is a Hollywood veteran and, even when working with an obviously low-budget, he still knows how to frame a shot and keep the action moving. Drew Waters is believable as the conflicted coach while his two sons are well-played by Tom Maden and Chad Holbrook. The film was shot in Waxahachie and there’s an authenticity to the film’s small town setting, one that helps the film survive a few heavy-handed moments. As a general rule, I’m going to enjoy any film that looks like it could have been filmed down the street from me.
I watched Breaking The Press last month, while I was recovering from a sinus infection. I was feeling like crap at the time but the film still held my interest and, most importantly, it didn’t make me feel any worse. That’s the key thing when it comes to a film like this. It was pleasant and it helped to pass the time until I felt up to watching something a bit more challenging.