Well, the Tennessee Lady Vols have done it again, winning their seventh national basketball championship against Rutgers, 59-46. It puts me in mind of perhaps the Lady Vols's longest shot championship, after the 1996-97 season, chronicled in A Cinderella Season: The Lady Vols Fight Back. I thought it would be timely to review this absorbing HBO documentary.
The Good: Want to know what it's like to play for Pat Summitt? To be a part of a championship team that is underachieving? A Cinderella Season: The Lady Vols Fight Back takes the viewer into the locker room, the weight room, and right onto the court. The documentary filmmakers had almost unprecedented access to Summitt, her staff, and her players. Unless you are a fan of the program, you really don't know what's going to happen next. And more characteristic of a fictional drama, the twists and turns of this most unlikely of seasons will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The film works on another level, too. By delving into the backgrounds of Summitt and recalcitrant senior forward Abby Conklin, the filmmakers set up a quasi-dramatic adversarial tension between the two that further informs the piece. I tend to watch it again every year at tournament time, because it gets me fired up. Poignant, exciting, and eminently entertaining.
The Bad: I wish it had run longer. I felt like the fimmakers had to cut the piece too much, probably to fit time limitations imposed by HBO. Other than that, no down side at all.
The Bottom line: Four Flicks. A director's cut would probably get five flicks in my book.