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Film / Radio

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Radio is a 2003 drama directed by Mike Tollin, fictionalizing the unlikely, yet inspiring friendship between respected high school football coach Harold Jones (as portrayed by Ed Harris), and a mentally challenged young man named James Robert Kennedy (Cuba Gooding Jr.), and the impact he ends up having on the small town of Anderson, South Carolina, especially T.L. Hanna High School.

James Kennedy was given the Affectionate Nickname "Radio", because of his fascination with radios of any kind. As Coach Jones coaxes Radio out of his shell, his presence amongst other students and athletes at T.L. Hanna raises some eyebrows, and causes some stirring at first, but Radio manages to win over people's hearts with his sweet-natured spirit, and the unconditional love he has for those around him, something that Coach Jones puts into words, "We're not the one's who've been teaching Radio - Radio's the one who's been teaching us. Because the way he treats us all the time is the way we wish we treated each other only part of the time."

Although the actual events of Radio and his relationship with Coach Jones and T.L. Hanna spanned several years, the movie condenses it down into a year's worth of time, taking place in The '70s.

Tropes seen in this film:

  • Award-Bait Song: Eyes Of The Heart (Radio's Song) sung by India Arie.
  • Character Tic: Radio alone has so many, but one that's pointed out (also about the real Radio) is that if he doesn't want to resume a conversation, or doesn't like the turn it takes, he will put a transistor radio to his ear, and figuritively tune out everything else around him.
  • Covers Always Lie: The DVD release of the movie features the tagline, "His courage made them champions," with a shot of the T.L. Hanna Yellow Jackets running through the rain at the bottom, which applies to the movie in no way or form; Radio helped Harold and Honeycut with coaching, but he had nothing to do with the Yellow Jackets being champions, and the only rain scene involved Radio playing by himself while listening to a radio of the Jackets' away game.
  • Deep South: Anderson, South Carolina.
  • Disappeared Dad: Two examples in this movie:
    • Radio and Walter's mother is a widow, as their dad had died a while back prior to the movie taking place; in Radio's case, his mother remarks, "I'm wondering where he's at half the time, and worryin' all the time."
    • Harold is something of this to Mary Helen because he puts so much focus into coaching football that he sort of neglects her - then once Radio comes into the picture, he starts spending even less time with her, which also brings us to:
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Harold, in a sense, becomes something of a father figure to Radio over the course of the movie, and considering that he spends a great deal of time helping him come out of his shell and find his place in the community, Mary Helen pretty much gets the short end of the stick. We also have a Calling the Old Man Out moment later when Harold tries to have a moment with her at one point:
    Harold: Look, Mary Helen... I know we haven't had much chances to talk lately...
    Mary Helen: There's been plenty of chances, Daddy, you just don't taken any of 'em. It's alright - Radio needs what you're doin' more than I do.
  • Ensemble Cast: Ed Harris, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Alfre Woodard, and Debra Winger, among others.
  • Father to His Men: Harold, most of the time.
  • Happy Dance: Radio has one when he receives a Christmas present (a radio, of course), from the Joneses, and even has Harold join in as he plays it.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Johnny Clay initially is against Radio being part of the Yellow Jackets, and even conspires to get Radio in trouble and possibly thrown out of school altogether; he later realizes, however, that the constant pressure he's under from his own father is the real problem, and that Radio isn't a threat whatsoever. He finally befriends Radio in the end, much to his father's disappointment.
  • Jerkass: Johnny Clay, for aforementioned reasons and his father - town banker Frank Clay, especially after he stoops to passive-aggressiv measures to have Radio removed from T.L. Hanna.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Played with with Principal Lou Daniels; it seems unclear and rather ambiguous as to whether or not she agrees with having Radio attend school, and does frequently express concerns of Radio possibly being a disruptive influence, and even questions Harold if he's really trying to help him, or just use him as a mascot (much to Harold's outrage)... it is clear, however, that Lou is only wanting what's best for her students, and holds nothing personal against Radio.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Radio experiences this immediately after he's tricked by Johnny and a couple of his buddies into walking into the girl's locker room, while they're still in there. Though frightened, the girls simply tell Radio without any malice that he isn’t allowed in there.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: One memorable scene from several trailers and previews for the movie include Harold teaching his history class with true or false questions, and Radio happily chanting out the answers. This scene was nowhere seen in the actual movie, but however, turned out to be part of a lengthily Deleted Scene on DVD, involving the Jones family visiting a nearby church with Radio, where the preacher preaches in this manner, by asking his congregation spiritual questions true or false, which was something Radio carried over into his schoolwork.
  • Rousing Speech: Not so much rousing, but before one the games the Yellow Jackets play, Harold has his players close their eyes, listen to the cheers coming from the stands, and imagine what it'll feel like to hear those cheers as they go out there and come back victorious, telling them to hold their heads up high, to play with pride but also play from their heart.
  • The '70s: When the movie is set.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Radio likes him some french fries.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Frank seems to have this attitude towards Johnny, seemingly never 100% satisfied with anything he does, especially when it comes to his playing. He, at one point, even takes Johnny aside and demeans him for passing too much during a big basketball game.
  • Write Who You Know: Again, the entire movie fictionalizes the accounts of Radio's life among the people of Anderson, as well as his friendship with Harold Jones. In fact, the in-universe story Harold tells Mary Helen about not helping an obviously needy boy when he was a boy himself was something the real Harold Jones told the filmmakers well into the movie's production.
  • Wrong Bathroom Incident: Played for drama: James Kennedy, an intellectually challenged man, becomes a mascot of sorts for the T.L. Hanna High School in South Carolina. Near the beginning of the film, he gains the nickname "Radio" for his interest in listening to transistor radios. As the film progresses, he also gains an interest in the high school's football practices. Unfortunately, he's bullied by the players, but the coach, Harold Jones, takes him under his wing, and Radio becomes popular as he inspires the team and school. Later in the film, one of the bullies tricks Radio into going into the girls' locker room. Thankfully, they are understanding of his mistake, but the initial shock of Radio being in there still traumatizes him, causing him to run off in shame. Again, thankfully, the bully gets Laser-Guided Karma from Coach Jones when Jones deduces who tricked Radio, and the bully is benched before an important football game.