Sara (Leah Pipes, "Pixel Perfect") is a 15-year-old soccer phenomenon staring down an opportunity to try out for the U.S. National Team. Caught between what her domineering coach father (Scott Patterson, "Gilmore Girls") wants for her future and her newfound desire to actually enjoy being a love-struck, relaxed teenager, Sara has to find her priorities in life quickly before important decisions are made for her.
In the era of teen claptrap such as "Step Up" and any recent Miley Cyrus product, "Her Best Move" is downright revelatory. Here is a teen-girl-centered film that doesn't define itself through mall couture or caricatures of high school cliques. Instead, "Move" uses a softer sense of intelligence and pubescent reality to pursue a clichéd, but engaging tale of hopes and dreams.
While I'm hundreds of miles away from the intended demographic of "Move," I appreciated the effort put in by co-writer/director Norm Hunter to keep his characterizations as authentic as they could be under these circumstances. Much of the plotting in "Move" plays a little too close to "Saved by the Bell" standards, but it goes down smoothly due to the filmmaker's attempt to instill in Sara humanity and social anxiety the audience can relate to. "Move" isn't exactly "Interiors," but outside of the boy troubles, part-time job wackiness at Coldstone (co-star Daryl Sabara is no Farmer Ted), and first-kiss jitters, there's a commitment to understanding what makes Sara tick that's refreshing, and ultimately provides an unexpectedly rewarding viewing experience for both kids and adults.
The characters live and worry with attractive realism, personified in the performance by Leah Pipes. An unusually lucid teen actress, Pipes reads the role with such an authentic feeling of swirling self-conscious butterflies that "Move" nearly comes off as a teen documentary at certain pivotal moments. Pipes is terrific at demonstrating the dangerous push and pull of parental expectation vs. the desires of the newly engorged teen heart. The supporting cast fills in the blanks that the script leaves behind well enough, but I can't imagine the film without Pipes, and her work does wonders elevating this material beyond familiar and potentially repellent territory.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio) "Move" could've used a bit more of a punch in the transfer department. Pixilation occurs in several scenes during the run of the film, and colors seem muted in ways that directly contradict the film's sunny attitude. A full screen presentation is also offered.
"Her Best Move" features a nice 5.1 Dolby Digital track that keeps the pop soundtrack up close and personal. A low-budget film without much use for a profound soundscape, the DVD provides a clean dialogue mix and a nice punch of the surrounds during the soccer sequences. A 2.0 mix is included here, along with Spanish and French sound options.
English and Spanish subtitles are included.
"Her Best Move" ends with Sara at her big, life-defining soccer game, and sporting suspense is one of the many things on Hunter's "to do" list. He also sets aside time to wrap up the character arcs with a believable flow, even when they all lead to smiles and reconciliation. The final moments of "Move" are ones about respect and behavioral correction, and when was the last film made about teenagers that took the time to address such topics as personal choice? "Move" might be a cheesefest for anyone older than 12 years-old, but there's an effort made to portray intellect here that should be recognized and rewarded.
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