The Winning Season: A 2010 Film

This was the official website for the 2010 film, The Winning Season.
Set in suburban Indiana, "The Winning Season" stars Rockwell as Bill Greaves, an adult misfit recruited by the local high school principal (Corddry) to coach the school's floundering girls' basketball team. Initially retreating from what appears to be a hopeless situation, Bill perseveres and manages to help the team and its captain (Roberts) ratchet up its competitive spirit, while the girls offer Bill a renewed life focus.

Content is from the site's 2010 archived pages as well as from other outside sources.

Release date:September 3, 2010
(NY, LA)
Director:James C. Strouse
MPAA Rating:PG-13 (for some thematic elements, language including some sexual references, alcohol abuse and smok
Screenwriter:James C. Strouse
Starring:Sam Rockwell, Emma Roberts, Rob Corddry, Shareeka Epps, Emily Rios


The Winning Season Movie Trailer Official



The Winning Season -- Film Reviews


10/14/2010 by Kirk Honeycutt , A

The title of "The Winning Season" is, of course, the first spoiler in this movie about a down-and-out, alcoholic ex-basketball player who gets hired to coach a girls' high school team. In reality, you could have called the movie "Clippers Basketball," and a viewer still would expect the girls to post a winning record. Because from the first frame, writer-director James C. Strouse (who did the button-pushing wet-hankie movie "Grace Is Gone") signals that he is not going to deviate from the "Bad News Bears" formula.

The movie, which has been kicking around since the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, will have a brief theatrical window before going to DVD, where potential sales will be more likely.

Strouse's script is less a screenplay than a checklist: A misogynistic misfit takes over a girls' team and discovers that he, gasp, likes these girls -- check. A drunk eventually loses his thirst for drink and regains his lost daughter -- check. A Chicana outcast gains the respect of her teammates and rediscovers her self-worth -- check.

A girl must confront her sexual feelings for other girls -- check. A girl must learn that a selfish, shallow "sports hero" doesn't make for a good boyfriend -- check. Another girl learns the same lesson about a potential pedophile -- check. A team turns around its season when the members learn the value of team play -- check.

There's not a lot of space on the list for the unexpected. As both writer and director, Strouse embraces the obvious and shuns the unconventional. Despite this, several performances stand out, indicating that there was a decent sports movie here that Strouse dribbled right past.

Sam Rockwell has several fine moments as the coach. His character stands in for many people who, after high school glory in sports, find themselves lost in an adult world no longer interested in long-ago exploits. Rockwell demonstrates he has what it takes to play those bitter disappointments with some real emotions had the movie been willing to dig beneath the all-too-easy exterior of alcoholism and misogyny,

Margo Martindale brings excellent comic timing and savvy character acting to what could have been an incidental role of the team's bus driver whom the coach hires as an assistant despite her knowing nothing about basketball.

Among the girls, Emma Roberts has solid scenes with Rockwell as her character takes the lead in trying to establish diplomatic relations between the team and its heedless coach. Meaghan Witri finds ways to make the girl discovering her lesbian nature not a cliche.

Shareeka Epps again displays the feisty spirit seen in Rodrigo Garcia's "Mother and Child."
Rooney Mara might be the newly anointed Lisbeth Salander in the American remake of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," but she doesn't have enough to do here to impress other than with her rail-thin beauty.

The production, including the basketball sequences, is pro. However, the film might set an unfortunate sort of indie record for handing out producing credits as 16 -- count 'em, 16 -- people are listed as producers or exec producers, not to mention three more co-producers. It's a wonder the girls could find the court with that mob hanging around.

Opens: Friday, Sept. 3 (Lionsgate)
Production: Gig Films & Plum Pictures in asociation with Sneaky Pete Prods. and Tax Credit Finance
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Emma Roberts, Shareeka Epps, Emily Rios, Rooney Mara, Meaghan Witri, Melanie Hinkle, Margo Martindale, Rob Corddry
Director-screenwriter James C. Strouse
Producers: Gia Walsh, Kara Baker, Celine Rattray, Galt Niederhoffer, Daniela Taplin Lundberg
Executive producers: Pamela Hirsch, Sam Rockwell, Joseph C. Grano, Andrea Grano, Daniel Crown, Nick Quested, Reagan Silber, Jeanne O'Brien, David Sweeney, Jamie Carmichael, Erick Kwak
Director of photography: Frankie DeMarco
Production designer: Stephen Beatrice
Music: Edward Shearmur
Costume designer: Vicki Farrell
Editor: Joe Klotz
Rated PG-13, 105 minutes



The Winning Season

Movie review by Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media

Age: 14+

Quirky indie sports flick is surprisingly serious, moving.

  • PG-13
  • 2010

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this indie sports dramedy stars former tween star Emma Roberts (Unfabulous, Hotel for Dogs), but it's more age-appropriate for teens. There's some mild violence (a courtside brawl, with a couple of punches and some pushing/shoving), more language than expected (including both swear words like "s--t" and "a--hole" and racial epithets like "wetback"), and the requisite adolescent sexuality -- which includes some kissing in a convertible and an inappropriate relationship between an older shoe salesman and one of the 17-year-old players. The coach -- who's frequently drunk -- has huge problems with his own daughter and a recurring fascination with the assistant coach's sexuality. The girls try to score a drink in one scene.

What's the story?
Bill (Sam Rockwell) -- a divorced, alcoholic dishwasher who has a strained relationship with his daughter -- gets an unexpected call to coach the girls' basketball team at a local Indiana high school. The ragtag team of girls includes Tamra (Meaghan Witri), the daughter of the principal (Rob Corddry); Kathy (Emily Rios), a friendless Mexican-American student; Abby (Emma Roberts), the sweet, earnest team captain; Lisa (Shareeka Epps), a loud-mouthed occasional troublemaker; and Wendy (Rooney Mara), a beauty with a much older boyfriend. At first Bill is horrified by his team, but eventually, with the help of local morale booster Donna (Margo Martindale), he manages to spur the team onto unlikely glory ... until his past habits catch up with him.


Is it any good?
Ultimately, although there are many tender moments, THE WINNING SEASON is confusing, because Strouse is confused about whether he's making a genre film or an indie film. Down-and-out coach, small-town Indiana high school, basketball -- sounds like Hoosiers, doesn't it? Director James C. Strouse seems to be half paying tribute to and half subverting the very genre his movie falls into -- the uplifting sports drama. The best parts are when the girls show Bill that he's sorely lacking when it comes to communicating with young women. When he casually calls an opposing player "the big girl," the team calls him out for reinforcing negative stereotypes ("You're the reason girls get eating disorders," one of his team deadpans). By taking Bill to task, the girls actually prepare him to face his sullen daughter, herself a basketball player at a rival school.

Martindale, a gifted character actress, impresses with her low-key portrayal. Donna is the most genuine character in the movie, with her quiet belief in the team and her witty banter with Bill. Rockwell, one of Hollywood's most underrated actors, never gives a dull performance. He plays Bill as a cocky curmudgeon who never coddles the girls or tries to be their best friend; he's coarse when necessary -- like when he tells Wendy not to flatter herself because she's not his type. His no-nonsense -- sometimes a tad harsh -- approach to coaching, in turn, teaches the girls to stand up for themselves, to believe in what they can accomplish together, despite their differences. Those differences, the girls realize, are insignificant, because when they get on the court, it's the teamwork that matters.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's messages about what it means to be part of a team. How do the girls have to put their individual differences aside to be a successful team? How do they improve as the season progresses?
  • The movie has persistent discussions of sexuality and ethnicity. How are they handled? What lessons are learned about making assumptions based on stereotypes?
  • What are the consequences of drinking in the movie? Do you think they're realistic?



Tomatometer CRITICS 50% | AUDIENCE 54%




September 2, 2010 | Rating: 3/5
Sheri Linden
Los Angeles Times Top Critic
Movie review: 'The Winning Season'
September 02, 2010|By Sheri Linden

An air of déjà vu hangs over "The Winning Season," the story of a sad sack who takes the helm of a ragtag, losing basketball team and gets a shot at redemption. But if the Indiana-set comedy evokes " Hoosiers," "The Bad News Bears" and countless other sports movies, not to mention storytelling clichés, it also has at its center the singular and underappreciated Sam Rockwell.

Divorced and hangdog, complete with cluttered apartment decorated in Early Drab, Rockwell's Bill is a onetime b-ball coach who is bussing tables when his second chance arrives. That opportunity takes the form of an old friend who's a high school principal. Played by Rob Corddry in refreshingly snark-free fashion, Terry asks Bill to coach the girls varsity team and listens patiently when he rebuffs the idea. "Women hate me," Bill says — and judging by his interactions with his passive-aggressive ex-wife ( Jessica Hecht) and openly enraged teenage daughter (Shana Dowdeswell), he's not exaggerating.

In keeping with formula, Bill promptly overcomes his resistance, and in the team he finds females who are not only ready to argue with him but also willing to listen. Within proscribed roles, the young actresses deliver natural performances, by turns willful, skeptical and exuberant. The least convincing strand involves the anti-immigrant attitude of the team's sole African American toward a Latina teammate; it's a heavy-handed bit of messaging, but Shareeka Epps ("Half Nelson") and Emily Rios play it with restraint. As a precocious beauty who dates older men, Rooney Mara brings little beyond sullenness to suggest what made David Fincher cast her in his English-language version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

But this is no action thriller, the obligatory training montage notwithstanding. "Winning Season" often lacks momentum, especially in its early stretches. It is, however, a far more solid film than writer-director James C. Strouse's debut, the war-themed family drama "Grace Is Gone." As the games tick off the team's inevitable improvement, the story deepens through the clownish, heartbreaking exertions of Rockwell's gruff misfit, still working things out at the final buzzer.


September 2, 2010
Kirk Honeycutt Hollywood Reporter Top Critic
A predictable and cliched dramady.


September 1, 2010 | Rating: 2/5
Eric Hynes  Time Out  Top Critic
Forget AA; according to the movies, there's no better cure for alcoholism or depression than good ol' precollegiate athletic coaching.


August 31, 2010 | Full Review…
Melissa Anderson Village Voice Top Critic
The Winning Season respects its misfits (and its audience) by not stripping away their foibles in the service of sports-movie clichés.


January 21, 2018 | Rating: C | Full Review…
Dennis Schwartz
Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Mediocre, predictable underdog sports film.


November 26, 2010 | Rating: B-
Brian Orndorf
November 26, 2010

There’s nothing in “The Winning Season” that you haven’t seen before in other, better underdog motion pictures. It’s an exercise in cliché that benefits from the charms of the cast, chiefly Sam Rockwell, who sweetens the tiresome formula with his eccentric, sardonic ways. It doesn’t win points for originality, but the film keeps to a steady rhythm of entertainment, delivering a few laughs and tears along the way on DVD before it settles into its rightful home on basic cable, where the modest elements of this basketball picture will find a fitting audience.

An alcoholic fighting his reputation as a deadbeat dad, Bill (Sam Rockwell) has been offered a job to coach high school girls’ basketball, allowing him a chance to put his experience with the game to good use. Reluctantly, Bill takes the gig, presented with a ragtag team of teens (including Emma Roberts, Shareeka Epps, and Rooney Mara) who have raw talent for the game, lacking only the proper leadership. Frustrated by his fractured relationship with his estranged daughter, Bill pours his energy into the squad, molding them into winners with assistance from a school bus driver (Margo Martindale). As the girls come together, Bill is tripped up by his awful habits, once again facing the disappointment of those he loves dearly.

It appears writer/director James C. Strouse (“Grace is Gone”) wanted a “Bad News Bears” all to himself. “The Winning Season” is a faintly acidic sporting dramedy that pilfers a few moves from the 1976 Little League classic, pitting a drunken blowhard with a severe distaste for opportunity against the youthful pucker of knowing youngsters, with the fortunes of the sporting realm their itchy forum of collaboration. The twist here is purely gender-centric, as Bill is not only initially faced with a losing team, but a line-up of sexually blossoming young women from broken homes, all dealing with matters of the heart as consuming as their basketball commitments.

Strouse isn’t scripting a daredevil underdog story, but one built upon personality, with the team and Bill facing personal struggles that help them to bond through shared vulnerability. Sometimes light, sometimes dark, “The Winning Season” finds a charming way to sell this developing friendship, leading with the natural gifts of the cast, who easily overcome the limitations of the script to find appealing character beats that sustain the laughs and the drama. Rockwell is especially strong with a thin role, instilling Bill with the proper amount of Buttermaker-style bile, yet keeping him a troubled man who can’t seem to conquer his drinking problems, despite the efforts of the team to help him get back on his feet. And I noticed many subtle references to Batman coming back from defeat. One endearing scene before the climactic game involves the team going out together for pizza, each wearing a Batman sweatshirt as inspiration and as a show of unity. I'm sure this scene works for all us Batman fans out there because for some reason, wearing a super hero shirt does have an empowering quality about it, but not sure the general audience got this scene due to Bill's overbearing rant. The editing is a little confusing with Bill’s emotional journey, but Rockwell conveys the progress of the character’s awareness wonderfully, playing up the sadness and command of this flawed man as he stumbles into redemption. Rockwell’s the right man for the job, knowing when to lay into despair and when to allow the film a few frantic moments of celebration to appease genre demands.

Supporting him confidently is the ensemble of young actresses, with special attention paid to Meaghan Witri as Tamra, the tallest of the team who openly chastises Bill on his casual misogyny while wrestling with her own developing sexual identity. The gang is populated with realistic portrayals of teen distraction (think cell phones and boy troubles), yet Witri is refreshingly commanding and genuinely funny, making a swell opponent for Bill’s booze-soaked disregard.



September 12, 2010 | Rating: B-
Cole Smithey
Sam Rockwell's never-ending ability to create intriguing characters proves essential to writer/director James C. Strouse, whose formulaic tale of redemption for a washed up basketball coach would otherwise be instantly forgettable.



September 10, 2010 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
Sandie Angulo Chen  Common Sense Media
Quirky indie sports flick is surprisingly serious, moving.


September 10, 2010 | Rating: 2/4
Willie Waffle
I want you to see this movie On Demand to witness the most underrated actor in all of the world, Sam Rockwell. That way, he won't have to make another movie like this ever again.


September 3, 2010 | Rating: 5/10
Jeff Otto
"The Winning Season" teeters hither and thither on its tonal seesaw, never quite sure where its going and often forgetful of where it's been.





Stephanie S ***
February 14, 2011
Pretty standard movie about a lovable loser and the team that rallies around him. Still pretty cute, and well acte


Taylor S ****½
February 11, 2011
Funny and Fun Movie !


Caleb C  ****½
February 9, 2011
I swear, I think Flixster deletes my lame reviews. Anyways, this is one of the better films from 2009 and everyone should check it out. It has real heart to it and is actually legitimatly funny in parts. The whole cast is great here.


Super Reviewer
Lorenzo v ****
February 6, 2011
"It took a bunch of girls to make him man up."

A comedy centered on a has-been coach who is given a shot at redemption when he's asked to run his local high school's girls basketball team.

At least The Winning Season knows that the whole down-on-his-luck coach and group of misfit girls basketball team who learn about life and winning together type of story has been done before. They did unfortunately follow the exact same formula, but with a hint of whimsy and self-awareness, it's above average for the genre. Emma Roberts and the other girls comprising the team actually come across as real teenage girls. I found them cute and funny. As a big fan of Sam Rockwell, he seems to be the reason why this film is pretty good. He's basically a drunken asshole, very unlikable, but he completely draws you in so there's a real emotional connection for the dramatic elements. And as he has demonstrated before, his physical comedy antics are perfect making the comedy scenes pretty funny. The Winning Season has been done many times before, but here they managed to do it without being cheesy, while providing quality scenes of drama and comedy. If you like the genre, it is certainly worth a look.


Mark C ***
February 4, 2011
Loser - corny, not funny enough, not serious enough, but Sam Rockwell plays a good drunkard. Not Emma's best. Needs more edit, soundtrack, re-shoots, something. Skip it.


Devin D ****
January 16, 2011
Good movie about a girls B-ball team coached by Sam Rockwell....


Ross H ***½
January 13, 2011
Nice film with Sam Rockwell as Bill, a former successful boys high school basketball coach who made a bad decision that cost him his job and is now washing tables at an Applebees like restaurant. The principle of the high school (Rob Corddry in a non asshole role which I'm not accustomed to but a nice job nonetheless) offers him a job to coach the girls basketball team. But there's only six players on the team and they're not very good. Emma Roberts plays the main girl on the team and here's another good performance from this up and coming actress (from Wild Child, Lymelife, It's Kind Of A Funny Story). Another star of tomorrow that you can see blossoming today. A few other girls get some screen time as well as a subplot concerning Bill's daughter Molly who he's having a tough time communicating with her. Added to all this is his continuing alcohol abuse. There are some serious hard hitting issues in this film with some great feel good moments as well. And both come out impressively. What was kind of surprising was the way the film moved to some very broad comedy toward the end of the film (Bill is locked out of the gym because of a plot point and so he is trying to sneak back in to coach his girls and to tell his assistant coach (nicely played by Margo Martindale) what plays to draw up. But even that worked for me and was easily acceptable. If you want to see an uplifting girls sports movie then look no further. Here you go.


Brittany R ****
January 6, 2011
It's a typical sports movie without being completely typical. Sam Rockwell is certainly what makes this movie. While a developing relationship with the girls is somewhat focused on, this story is really about the coach. Rockwell is hilarious the entire time, even when he's supposed to be pitiful. His mustache rocks and of course, no Rockwell movie would be complete without a dance scene.


Paolo C ****
January 2, 2011
Un buon film, dal retrogusto di Sundance.


Matt A ****
December 31, 2010
The twist is that the team helps the coach as much as vice versa.


Eddie G ***
December 23, 2010
female high scool basketball team,
well it's a coach carter just with females team


Andrew S ***
December 22, 2010
This was a surprisingly little comedic film. It has an interesting balance it doesn't come off quite indie neither does it feel like a studio formulated film it comes to these nice medium in-between the two which you don't often see these days. Although talents such as Shareeka Epps, Rooney Mara, and Margo Martindale are never really utilized. But it was still worth a gander.


Angela N ****
December 13, 2010
Wow a sports/ high school comedy with a difference! The characterisation is just great in this little gem. It does not rely on obscene vulgarities to get laughs, just good old punchlines. Emma Roberts did seem a little out of place, especially when she is supposed to be dating a kid who looks 14 when she looks 18, but they did make a joke about that in the movie... so maybe that was intended. Loved it!


Huy C  ****½
December 10, 2010
The Winning season is a huge WIN! Please give it a try and enjoy!