What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this movie includes brief flashbacks to WWI battle scenes, including the death of civilians. A character has an amputated leg and another has epilepsy. There are sad deaths. There are also intense scenes of prejudice and cruelty that may be upsetting to children.
What's the story?
THE BASKET is set in a small town near Spokane, Washington, in 1918. A soldier has come home from the war, ill and injured. His parents are devastated, blaming themselves for letting him go. Two German orphans are taken in by the minister, over the objections of neighbors who blame them for the war. The community's farmers need an expensive new thresher, but they do not have the money. A charismatic new teacher from Boston holds his students spellbound as he lets them listen to an opera on his gramaphone, telling them a little more of its story each day. He also tells them about a new game that has become popular back in Boston, one where the players try to throw the ball into a basket nailed to a post. All of these stories and more come together like the musical themes in the opera played for the students by the teacher. That opera (created for this movie) is also the story of a mysterious stranger who helps a small village triumph over challenges that at first divide and then unite them.
Is it any good?
This is an ambitious, complicated, thoughtful, and meaningful story of fear, loss, love, opera, and basketball. The term "family movie" tends to evoke eye-rolling and sighs from all but the youngest kids, calling up memories of sugary stories about adorable children, cute pets, and bouncy songs; what it should evoke is a movie like this one.
The movie's low budget shows, but the passion and commitment that went into making it are even more evident. Some of it is formulaic -- we know the German kids will prove their value to the community and there will be surprises in the big game -- but the appeal of the characters and the integrity of the production hold the interest of the audience. Peter Coyote is fine as the teacher who must grapple with the demons of his own past as he tries to help his students. Karen Allen is very moving as the loving mother who loses her son and then almost loses her husband to isolation and guilt. Her expressions as she listens to the music and as she begins to speak about what she wants are eloquent beyond words.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about this movie's depiction of the early days of basketball, when the people who shoot baskets were called "goal tossers." How has it changed? How do you think that the way we play games like basketball and baseball may change in the future? Think about the sacrifices made by Brigitta and by Martin. What led them to make those choices? Did they get what they were hoping for? Why was it hard for some people in the community to accept Helmut and Brigitta? Which characters did not, and why? Why was the story of "The Basket" like what was going on in the town? How can stories help change the way we see the world?