BACK OF THE NET
Director: Louise Alston
Screenwriters: Alison Spuck McNeeley and Casie Tabanou
Runtime: 98 mins.
Australian release date: 18 April 2019
Previewed at: Palace Central, Sydney, on 10 April 2019.
Louise Alston’s Back Of The Net is a pedestrian teen comedy that may garner a tween audience over the Easter break, especially in Wollongong and Kiama, NSW, where much of it was filmed. In fact, one of the most impressive aspects of this film is the beautiful drone shots of the dramatic coastal highway heading south. They look magnificent. However, credit should be given to the youthful cast too, who have succeeded in delivering a yarn that will appeal to young girls and which covers the twin dilemmas of being bullied and being different. In this case, the story concentrates on an American kid, Cory Bailey (Sofia Wylie), who flies from Los Angeles to Australia to join the Harold Academy Australian Semester at Sea, but unfortunately misses the boat when she gets on the wrong bus and ends up at the Harold Soccer Academy instead.
Far from home and with her parents, David (Christopher Kirby) and Rebecca (Melissa Bonne), travelling in India and not readily contactable, Cory has to make the most of it and fend for herself, which is not a bad thing as it shows her how resilient she can be under difficult circumstances. She is a total science geek, without a sporting bone in her body, so when she arrives at the academy Cory is helped by her roommates, who take her under their wing; one in particular, Janessa (Gemma Chua-Tran), gives her sage advice and constantly encourages her to make the most of it. A good-looking fellow soccer student, Oliver (Trae Robin), shows an interest in Cory but he’s constantly being badgered by his friend Edie (Tiarnie Coupland), who wants him to concentrate on his technique to the exclusion of all else. A bully, Edie begins to make life difficult for Cory. Cory, meanwhile, decides to rise above all the negatives and becomes a member of the ‘Worst of the Best’ team. She uses her scientific knowledge to make positive suggestions to her fellow soccer players, in an attempt to make it to the finals. She also bonds with the coach Smith (Kate Box), who accepts her advice with laconic enthusiasm. You can see where it’s all heading, can’t you?
Back Of The Net breaks no new ground and Spuck McNeeley’s and Tabanou’s script is thoroughly predictable but the cast is delightful. Sofia Wylie was presumably cast to give the film an international appeal as she is a rising Disney starlet currently appearing in the TV productions High School Musical: The Series and Andi Mack. She is a real charmer, as is Gemma Chua-Tran, who’s terrific as Cory’s loyal friend. Kate Box has fun playing the slightly dipsy coach who’d love to be ‘one of the girls’. The best thing about Back Of The Net, though, is that it contains some very positive messages for youngsters and shows how important it is to stick together and try to resolve any bad feelings as, in the end, ‘…girls just wanna have fun…’ and that can’t be a bad thing!