After the book launch of my collection, Singular Selves: An Introduction to Singles Studies, co-edited with Ketaki, I was invigorated and relieved. I told Stephanie, Christina (of Onely fame), Tanya and Pete that I’d be spending the day recuperating. For me, recuperating means watching a movie I’ve seen several times before; there’s a comfort in that.
Of course, it was a pro-single movie, and of course, I’d plan to write a review on it. I cited Remember the Titans, that classic race relations movie starring Denzel Washington, as such in How to be a Happy Bachelor.
The movie follows the typical formula of the sports team overcoming hardships to win the championship. Based on a true story, Herman Boone, played by Washington, is hired by the school board of Alexandria, Virginia to be the first black head football coach at T.C. Williams High School in 1971 (Alexandria is so diverse now it’s hard to believe race relations were so contentious back then). This is a result of integration, which Virginia apparently was a bit behind on. Consequentially, he’s coaching a team of blacks and whites.
As per the formula, they have trouble getting along at first, yet begin to bond. I suspect real life wasn’t this easy, but their uniting is fun and uplifting to watch. And this leads to the first pro-single element:
Early in the movie, Julius (Black) and Gerry (White), both on the defensive live, are at each other’s throats. Having been forced to room together by Coach Boone as part of his own “race relations” program, they become friends. Gerry introduces Julius to his girlfriend, Emma, played by Kate Bosworth, and she refuses to shake his hand. Later, they break up as Emma says “I’m not going in the same direction as you.” Gerry has become best friends with Julius, and Emma can’t accept that. Later on, however, she’s become more open-minded and shakes Julius’s hand; fortunately, they don’t get back together.
Bill Yoast, Boone’s assistant, is the white coach demoted upon Boone’s arrival. He intends to quit, but his players say they won’t play for a black coach. He doesn’t want them to lose college scholarships, so he swallows his pride and coaches with Boone. Their friendship develops as well, and they learn from each other. His daughter, who narrates the film, mentions in the voiceover that her parents had gotten divorced because Yoast was basically married to coaching. She opted to stay with him; he values coaching his players (and raising his daughter) above everything else. He might just be a Single Person at Heart.
Finally, Boone is married; early in the film, the President of the School Board approaches him about coaching the team, saying, “I heard you were a race man.” Boone’s response: “I’m also a family man.” However, when he sees a crowd of Black people cheering for him, he’s realizes the one they’re hoping will be the Black face of progress, and he realizes this social role is as important as his roles as husband and father, if not more so.
The film doesn’t have a romantic subplot involving a black player and a white girl (or vice versa); that may have happened in real life, but it would be too much of a departure for what the writers were trying to achieve. Most important was the team harmony, as well as the friendships developed. Case in point: when Gerry is paralyzed in a car accident, he only wants to see Julius. In the subtitles revealing what happened to the players, we see Gerry and Julius remained friends. Most of the players probably did marry, but the film doesn’t see the need to mention it.
It’s also a fun, light watch, perfect for decompressing after hosting a book launch.