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Personal Best (1982, 124 minutes)

September 29, 2010

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Summary:

Two athletes compete for a place in the Olympics. In the process relationships are born and destroyed.

The Review:

I will always remember this movie. It was the first time I ever saw two women kissing, and I don’t mean a friendly kiss. I was sixteen years old and it gave me the biggest kick of my life. I was so thrilled, I didn’t even mind the length. Well, I am much older now and I am not as easily impressed. WARNING: be prepared to sit for a long time. This movie seems very long, much longer than the 2 hours it actually is. The truth is that since the first time I saw it, I have only seen it one other time from beginning to end. I can’t seem to get through it.

On the one hand, it is a movie about athletes. If you are looking for insight into the athletic mind, then this is the movie for you. In fact that is the more interesting plot, the sacrifices one has to make in order to succeed. There is a back story of the boycotted Olympics and how many dreams that shattered. And it is perhaps that urgency that drives the rest of the athletes to push harder for the next Olympics.

If on the other hand you are tuning in for the lesbian aspect of the movie, then you better stay away. From a lesbian perspective, this movie is very unsatisfying. You leave yearning for something more, a different ending… SOMETHING, ANYTHING! These women are competitors and eventually lovers. Unfortunately, their coach gets in the middle, athletically and sexually. While, there is a certain wonder in their coming together, that’s only a fraction of the movie. They are split apart on a misunderstanding fueled by competitiveness. The fact that an unattractive, unappealing man interrupts the sapphic interlude only adds to my dislike of this movie. But really what grates is the unsatisfying ending that forces me to be happy for them since they seem to be on their way to athletic success and perhaps a rekindled friendship. Well, their misunderstandings were never cleared up and neither are their sexualities. I just can’t recommend this movie. The  only reason I give it 2 stars is that the women do have a love scene and it’s a significant historical lesbian movie.

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