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SFF’14 Movie Review: “Happy Valley”

January 30, 2014

Screen shot 2014-01-30 at 5.42.53 PMPenn State has become the face of ridicule these last few years; starting with Assistant Coach, Jerry Sandusky, whose criminal charges of 40 counts of child sex abuse, began to set off an incredible firestorm of accusations about who failed to protect the children of Happy Valley.

It was Joe Paterno that turned him in, painting him a hero and an even greater saint of human being than how the people saw him (“Saint Joe”). However, as we later learn, Paterno had certain knowledge about Sandusky’s fishy crimes years prior, and the fact that nothing was substantially done back then, creates a whole new perception on the man.

The film examines the people, the community, and their undying love for Paterno. The timing of his death, after his [questionable] termination was just more than what the people intended to have upon themselves. Then of course we’re given the revelation about Paterno, given the fact that he knew about Sandusky in 2001 creates greater controversy.

The film says it was a complicated situation, if Paterno had said anything in the first place, would the same outcome apply? However, as we learn, Paterno may have persuaded university officials not to report Sandusky to authorities in 2001.

The movie is played out as a thriller in a lot of ways, while it keeps you on the edge at times; it still leaves you feeling hollow inside. Without question this is a giant cluster-fuck of a situation. Lives have been ruined; the schools good name tarnished, championships dating from 1998-2001 have been stripped away from the schools walls. We’re left wondering what really could have been done.

We’re introduced to Sandusky’s adopted son, Matt Sandusky, who’s come forward to the courts, testifying against his father. For me, I almost feel that if anything could’ve have been done, to prevent any harshness the town has faced, why couldn’t the son say anything before? Yes, I understand that there’s the fact that the bond of family is stronger than anything else in this world, and that he was a kid and he didn’t know if it was right or wrong. But, come on now, lets be real, something could have been done! And that’s what frustrates me most after seeing this film, it doesn’t leave you feeling anything more than what you already know about the case, it just leaves you with more questions.

GRADE: B+

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