Well-made throwback drama tells the engaging story of different walks of life brought together by round ball.
“Game Day” isn’t a sports movie. But it’s subtly about the power of sport. Writer/director John Susman’s restrained script amiably gives us likable lead characters, who, despite their disparities, become friends on the court. Anyone who’s participated in recreational athletics will sync with the vibe here.
Ricki (Elizabeth Alderfer) is forced to take an entry-level job after her tech company fails. She’s frustrated by what she sees as her employer’s all-boys’ club, but it might not be her gender that’s holding her back. When Ricki initially rejects an offer to take part in the company’s basketball team. After listening to a co-worker, she takes the court. And because Ricki’s ambitious and an over-achiever, she decides to learn the game, which might help her break through the office politics.
While practicing at a neighborhood park, Ricki meets Lucas (Romeo Miller), who knows his way around inside and outside the paint. Reluctantly, Lucas agrees to train Ricki, and the coach-player relationship becomes more.
What works in “Game Day” is the unusual friendship between Lucas and Ricki. It’s not romantic, but just as deep. And basketball is only a small part of it. Susman hits the right beats without going over the top. It’s a small production boosted by winning performances by Alderfer and Miller (former USC basketball player and famous rapper Romeo Miller).
There’s room for this kind of drama in the overhyped, crowded marketplace that often pushes action and horror marked by graphic violence and sex. Viewers should identify with the focus placed here on character and authentic relationships. Unfortunately, basketball is low key. Because I’ve played on co-ed teams over the year, I’d wish the film explored the culture of intramural or community sports more fully. At times, the gameplay seemed so secondary to the overall narrative that it rang a touch insincere. Still, the concluding moments try to put the game and life into a broader perspective, which is refreshing and not too heavy.
“Game Day” is a warmhearted narrative crafted by a talented team.