It is a tricky business adapting true stories. Or that has been my humble conclusion. Anything that is “tagged” as any part of true stories means filmmakers are taking a person either living or who has lived and are attempting to not just tell their story but mimic their life. I have seen some that have been near perfection, and others that have failed miserably, unable to strike a balance between docu-drama and an entertaining film that keeps its viewer interested. This seventies-era flick may not be known among the ranks of popular real-life dramas, but it is memorable – even if only for one’s night’s worth of entertainment.
Being a home-maker is not all that Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino) wants from life. Although she is a newlywed whose well-known NBA referee husband (David Boreanaz) thought she wanted to be home and, eventually raise the kids they both want, Cathy is a woman ahead of her time. Her desire to be different without conforming leads her to apply for coaching jobs at a select few colleges. With no experience, she is socked that she is actually called in for an interview to Immaculata College. An all-girls Catholic college, Cathy is given the job without many questions by the stern Mother St. John (Ellen Burnstyn) but is not given a gym in which to teach her too few players. Before even beginning, it would seem the determined new coach is beaten.
In charge of admissions, Sister Sunday (Marley Shelton) is having doubts about her faith, her life – her purpose. She asks God to show her again if her decisions are the right ones before all is lost… and then she is asked to help coach the basketball team by Cathy. Not something she was expecting, Sister Sunday feels a tug towards this new endeavor as the memories of her former life begin to creep in, and she becomes as passionate about the team as Cathy. Leading the once losing team to any wins seems impossible but with her dream intact, Cathy plans on going places with her determined group of players.
It didn’t take much to make me see this little-known title as one of the more endearing films I’ve watched recently. The production starts off right with Cathy’s voiceover telling us what led her to apply for a job. The filming is snazzy and the acting is decent along with three fresh-faced actresses’ who portray the three players that the script singles out. There are the few scenes that were not well-acted or seemed too silly for their own good but most the time we are swept up in these lives because of empathetic portrayals. Based on the real events surrounding the 1971 girls’ basketball team, this is a movie that will resonate with old and young alike. Anyone who has played this sport (or any, really) will probably have some comedic flashbacks to the work it takes or countless drills your coach may have set you on, and adults will appreciate the depth of a true story and the twists life sometimes throws our way.
Written and directed by a virtual unknown film-maker, Tim Chambers, the script and direction of the movie – which is instrumental to a “good” story, were impressive. In particular, the script is both entertaining and heartfelt. Viewers will get a chuckle out of the girl’s reaction to their uniforms and be touched by the simple, accepting way the girls make one of their team-mates feel loved. Despite not being a lover of “all things 70’s” (sorry to those who like the styles: Despite my aunt’s best efforts to try convincing my “sis” and me that we could recycle some of her old things, we are just not into them), I loved most of Cathy’s wardrobe. Something about it was just… cool. The scarves, classic lines and colors were perfect for screen, and suited the actress well.
Some true stories can be tedious, or overlong – at best, this one doesn’t seem to fall into those traps. Despite its G-rating, it isn’t something young kids would find amusing but there is enough drama to hold our interest, and yet, its greatest component is its ability to connect with the viewer in an inspiring, sweet way. It’s one that teaches to never give up on dreams, and the reward that can – sometimes – follow such a determined will.
(What to know: One scene shows two women having a beer – one of which is a nun. There are some mild tricks and/or fibs; a girl is devastated by her boyfriend ending their relationship. Cathy inviting a group of boys to play against the girls in practice is considered “scandalous.” There may be some minor flirting.)