Why the Original ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ Is Timeless
“White Men Can’t Jump” was released on March 27, 1992. On the morning of March 28, according to fake sports legend — Michael Jordan gathered at the Sunset Ridge Country Club outside Chicago, drank about 10 Coors Lights, and played two rounds of golf. He had a game that night.Posted by Jordan with a beer 44 points6 assists and 3 steals, the Bulls beat the visiting Cavaliers 126-102.
Written and directed by Ron Shelton, the lighthearted, lighthearted basketball comedy isn’t about the NBA, and the only mention of Jordan is in a slightly derogatory way. Wesley Snipes plays stylish, loud streetball virtuoso Sidney Dean, who boasts that Jordan was impressed. Appreciating his skills and advising him to join the summer league, he declined the offer. (With professional training, Sidney sighs, “It might ruin the game.”) But “White Men Can’t Jump” has Jordan’s impudent after-beer slaps. There is something like a brave performance, and it is quite exciting with a confident athletic boasting attitude. Unlike many sports movies, it doesn’t tell you what it takes to win. What does it take to win openly?
A hit with audiences and critics at the time, and praised by Janet Maslin for her “boisterous wit” in The Times, the film’s reputation grew significantly over the next three decades. Since then, White Men Can’t Jump has emerged as a bonafide classic, beloved by basketball fans and hailed as a loving portrayal of streetball.Hulu will be released on Friday remake It stars Sinqua Walls and rapper Jack Harlow, but it seems unlikely that the original’s idiosyncratic magic will be restored (again. Streaming on Hulu).
Part of the charm is that the film seems rooted in its time and place. Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) is a genius Hooper who hustles black streetball players who underestimate him because he’s white to save himself and his girlfriend Gloria (Rosie Perez). making a precarious living. Appearing in a courtroom in Venice Beach, Shelton unleashes our entrees into the world with a local’s eye for color. Whether it’s people combing sand, people doing tai chi, or bodybuilders curling dumbbells, it’s the rich sense of detail that keeps us firmly entrenched in this community. And what we can quickly understand is that we are far from the world of professional basketball. This is real Venice Beach streetball and basketball as part of everyday life.
Billy has come to take Sydney’s money. But aside from a few racial cracks (Sidney and his friends deride the uncool Billy as a geek), it’s clear he’s just that. What Billy understands, and what the film portrays so beautifully, is that streetball is more than just a purpose. It’s just a matter of who is the most skilled player. Streetball is attitude and bravery, rant and bravado. When Billy scored a three-point shot in the shootout, Sydney still mocked his style, jeering that he had “no beauty at all.” Or, as one of Sydney’s friends puts it, in response to Sydney’s more elegant three of his responses: My husband John Keats said so! ”
Other sports movies also depict the power of winning. Only “White Men Can’t Jump” perfectly captures the power of talk. This film is a masterclass in ridicule and ridicule. On the court, Sidney and Billy eloquently celebrate the virtues of sharp rants and well-timed insults, and how winning or losing at streetball depends on how well you distract your opponents and keep your own clarity of mind. Prove it. “It’s not your country club,” Sidney teases Billy, implying that he can’t win on a real streetball court where mental toughness is more important than simple skill. But sometimes Billy denigrates the best of them. “Let’s stop and collect all the bricks. Let’s build a homeless shelter,” he said with a laugh. “Then your mother might have a place to live, too!”
Billy thinks he has Sydney’s number. “It’s better to lose looking good than to win looking bad,” he says. This is a good diagnosis, but it has both implications. Billy’s game also involves his ego and pride. That fact was revealed when he simply couldn’t stand being insulted and later took a risky bet to prove he could dunk. Both Billy and Sidney practiced what the Italian courtier and author Baldassare Castiglione called a “sprezzatura,” that is, “to hide all artistry, whatever people say or do. Make it look unnatural and effortless.” They want control, but more importantly, they want control to look easy.
Not that the film endorses this point of view. In fact, it wisely complicates the idea, and when Gloria later leaves Billy over her obsession with the game, she makes Billy pay for her arrogance. “Even if you win, you can really lose,” Gloria warns Billy. The film’s most memorable monologue, and perhaps the closest thing to a thesis statement. But this movie understands what drives Billy and Sydney to stay in the game even when they should stop, and is one of the few movies of its kind that portrays that pure streetball attitude with real wisdom. is one. Balls are life for them. They can turn down a challenge as easily as it takes their breath away.
‘White Men Can’t Jump’ opens on the same beach, on the same court, and ends with the same a cappella trio, the Venice Beach Boys. The circular structure is perfect for movies that are essentially endless entertainment. And we can well imagine Billy and Sydney remaining there, keeping the shots flowing back and forth until the end of the hour. That might be why the film has been around for his 30+ years, and why its appeal is timeless. This is not just a few of his summer 1992 basketball games. It’s about the magic of streetball. And the magic is forever.