Hoop Dreams of Glory

A basketball documentary delves deep into the dangerous lure of the game

If Hoop Dreams were a work of fiction, much of what happens in its later stages, the twists and turns of what would be the plot, might be shrugged off as cliche. But the fact that this is a documentary makes all the difference; when the cliches come to life, when it's real people experiencing the surprise failures and successes, the events can't be easily dismissed. Instead, they're absolutely thrilling.

The same goes for the game footage (the filmmakers must have had several cameras, so well is it captured), which is intense in a way that the mere choreography of a fictionalized game can only dream about. There's plenty more that could be said about Hoop Dreams, about the way black inner-city life is first shown entirely as an estate to escape, then begins to look good compared to the streamlined hypocrisies of the suburbs; about its portrayal of college recruiting -- this is year-round madness, not just March's; and, above all, about the film's final optimism, which comes through in scene after scene. This is, quite simply, a film rich in detail, rich in character, rich in feeling and rich in the rewards it gives a viewer -- if not always in the rewards it gives its two main subjects.

Hoop Dreams.
By Steve James, Frederick Marx and Peter Gilbert.
Rated PG.

161 minutes.

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