' ' Cinema Romantico: Let's Talk About that Jordan Westerkamp Hail Mary Scene in Set It Up

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Let's Talk About that Jordan Westerkamp Hail Mary Scene in Set It Up

Though Harper (Zoey Deutch) is the hardworking personal assistant to the editor of some vaguely defined online sports media in empire in “Set It Up”, she wants more, which is why her last name is Moore. And she wants more in sports media because sports mean something to her, see. She eventually gets it, surely she does, but not until much later. Before we get to that, we need to understand how much Harper loves sports. And to understand how much Harper loves sports, director Claire Scanlon provides a brief scene of Harper alone in her apartment after another long day at the office.

We see Harper on the couch, a laptop in her lap, a Stella Artois in her hand. Then, the shot switches so that we see the laptop screen over Harper’s shoulder.

She is watching a football game. And to most viewers, I reckon, that’s just what it is – a football game. A means to show our sports-loving protagonist watching sports. And then, when the contest concludes with a dramatic touchdown, she gets, like, almost a little weepy, as if swooning in the aftermath of such a glorious sportsballing moment, indicating her love of the game.

That’s how it probably plays to most viewers. But that’s not how it played to me. I know that game. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing during that exact play in that exact game the movie shows us. I was sitting on my old sofa in my old apartment perusing the menu of the Thai restaurant just down the alley and around the corner from which I was still going to order delivery because my beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers were about to lose to bleeping Northwestern and I was bleeping bummed. Until, of course, as “Set It Up” recounts, the immortal Ron Kellogg III heaved the football high into the night sky of Lincoln where, improbably, it came down, got batted back up, and then came down a second time into the arms of the also immortal Jordan Westerkamp, a catch instantly transforming his epic moustache from questionably hipster to totally cool. Hail Mary. Huskers win. I didn’t weep like Harper, but I screamed. Lord Almighty, did I scream.

I supposed the filmmakers chose this specific game simply for its inherent dramatic value. And I supposed we were simply supposed to think she was watching the game in real time because no signal is given to the contrary, even though, as we Cornhusker devotees know, the game took place five years ago. After all, no reference of this moment is made again. Harper is never revealed as being from Nebraska, or being a Nebraska graduate, or being, like, an Ameer Abdullah fan, though if she’d said she was I would have given Zoey Deutch a commemorative Oscar I am not authorized to give on the spot. And that’s fine. But wait.

I know, I know. I apologize. It’s blurry. You can’t really see it. But in grabbing the screenshots to concoct this post, I looked closer and realized that the bar at the bottom of the screen reveals that she is not, in fact, watching a live game; she is watching a highlight video. Ye gods! That changed everything! 

Sometimes, when I’m feeling blue, I will re-watch the Nebraska’s former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Eric Crouch render the gridiron as an amusement park with his 95 yard touchdown run against Missouri in 2001. And if I’m feeling blue and I have a little more time on my hands, I will re-watch Nebraska’s opening 2nd half drive against Oklahoma in 1991 because the sight of Nebraska going full bore smashmouth by just handing the ball to I-Back Derek Brown over and over and over until they spring the impeccably timed play-action pass on a gray, drizzly, sleety day in November is enough to fill my heart with sunshine.

A movie moment is not great just because it mirrors your own life, of course. After all, movies, the esteemed Roger Ebert famously wrote, are like machines for generating empathy, a chance to walk, for a little while, in someone else’s shoes. That is absolutely true. But while God knows the last group that needs more representation in pop culture are football fans, it nevertheless still automatically scorches your heart whenever you see someone on screen wearing your shoes. 

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