The intertwined lives and loves of three highly-ranked athletes striving for the national team; Chris bounces between the beds of male coach Terry and her female friend, competitor, and role model Tory.
Filmed over four years, a portrait of up-and-coming British sprinters in training and competition on the eve of the 2012 Olympics, and a deeply personal account of their lives as they strive towards their dreams.
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1976. Chris Cahill and Torry Skinner are US national caliber track and field athletes, Chris in the 100 meter hurdles, and Torry in the pentathlon. Chris has the natural ability to be great but she doesn't possess the confidence or drive, while Torry, who has less natural ability, psychologically knows what it takes to be great, leading to Torry making the Olympic team finishing second in her event, while Chris has a disastrous Olympic trial. Torry can see the potential in Chris, and tries to convince her coach at Cal Poly, Terry Tingloff, to coach Chris, Terry who will only allow Chris to train with the team without his guidance in he only having seen her disastrous performance at the trials. Although not ideal in that no scholarship money is involved, Chris accepts the offer against the wishes of her father, who currently coaches her. In their time together, Chris and Torry embark on a relationship, each seeing in the other what each doesn't possess, their attraction thus sexual as ...Written by
Best movie I've ever seen about sports and the competitive spirit
This is a beautiful and understated film about people trying to get the best out of the interaction of their personal lives with their sports performance. This is a very realistic, documentary-like film, and not everybody wants that from a film. If you want predictable, this isn't it: this film is human. You see these people go through real changes, as logical, illogical, fickle and precarious as life can be. The acting is top-notch, including the real-life athletes in scripted parts. Scott Glenn and Mariel Hemingway do some of their best work here. Patrice Donnelly is one of the most gorgeous women I have ever seen. The relationship depicted between her and Hemingway is complex, intelligent and non-exploitative. Just don't assume it's a 'typical' lesbian relationship-- it's THEIR relationship and has its own progression with which some will identify and some won't. It's definitely a superior alternative to what gay men were presented with around the same time: 'Making Love', which is soap-opera cheesy and ruined poor Harry Hamlin's movie career before it could get much of anywhere (and, to his credit, he is still proud of having done the role). Any lesbian who thinks 'Personal Best' is patronizing, really needs to see 'Making Love'.
Few movies make me nostalgic, but 'Personal Best' does, very much so-- I wish I could time-warp back to Eugene in 1976! It's got that 'natural' '70s vibe to it, and it is sometimes heartwarming to see people without cellphones or computers. All around this film makes the athletes larger-than-life and gets under their skin in ways few films have ever done, and I'm not a sports-oriented person, let alone given to watching track-and-field. The shot-put scene at the Olympic trial at the end is one of many marvelously-conceived sequences which literally make me feel like I'm in the action, as the athletes in slo-mo coil into position with the shot, getting eye-to-eye with the camera just before they all spring forth at once in a nice feat of editing.
The DVD release of this film is a little confounding because, even though it's widescreen, the image quality is really not much better than a good VHS copy. There is a lot of visual noise, especially obvious on dark backgrounds (like the credits), which was very disappointing to see-- it seems that a DVD release does not guarantee quality, just compatibility. But at least it's available, whereas the VHS is becoming very hard-to-find except on Amazon (can't believe I've never even seen one at Goodwill). I would love to see this film restored to its full magnificence.
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