Jason Miller is best known to movie audiences as Fr. Damien Karras in The Exorcist (1973) and The Exorcist III (1990), but he also wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, That Championship Season, in 1971, and brought it to the screen about 10 years later. The drama is very much of its time. It works on the basic approach of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Mary Crowley’s The Boys in the Band, which is to say it gathers a group of people together for a supposedly pleasant social gathering that, instead, turns into a baring of souls and the revealing of secrets. The other named plays made better transitions to the screen than Miller’s play does here—partly because of direction, but also because he lacks the level of bitchy humor of the other writers. It’s all about a group of men getting together for the 24th anniversary of the night they won the Pennsylvania State High School Basketball Championship. You might call them “men on the verge of a midlife breakdown”—with their old coach overseeing the proceedings as best he can. As you might guess, everyone has turned out a good bit shy of what they expected to be that night in 1957. It’s not bad—the cast certainly helps—but it rarely gets away from feeling like canned theatre toward the end.
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