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Personal Best

By Grant Balfour

It takes a lot to win. This movie is usually considered a classic of lesbian cinema, and that's too bad: its true sensuality lies in powerful erotic associations with running and the sheer pain of competition. The film opens with a memorable close-up of sweat dripping on tarmac, an early glimpse of a visual style which evolves throughout the picture into almost pornographic slow-motion sequences of high jumps, shot puts, and running legs.

The story follows a young runner (Mariel Hemingway) from a clueless start in the 1976 Olympic trials through a vexed affair with her mentor-competitor (Olympic runner Patrice Donnelly) to a final, triumphant qualifying race for the boycotted 1980 Moscow games. The human elements are told in an almost documentary style, giving an honest, complicated look at the blossoming of friendship into love against the near-military backdrop of world-class competitive sports. Hemingway and Donnelly can act, and their drive to win is compelling, both on the field and in their personal lives. But what really makes the film worth watching are the races--stunning images, beautiful editing, and the timeless drama of athletic endeavor.


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Buy this VHS movie from! (Click here!)DVD unavailableSoundtrack unavailable at - try eBay (see links below)Rated RNot on an American Film Institute 100 list

Director: Robert Towne

Stars: Mariel Hemingway, Scott Glenn, Patrice Donnelly

Released: February 22, 1982

Availability: VHS

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