Rating: (3 out of 5) Sunday, 10/18/2009, 1:00 PM Feature presentation, $10 at Flashpoint
With Training Rules, directors Dee Mosbacher and Fawn Yacker use Portland’s ”no alcohol, no drugs, no lesbians” method of coaching as the starting point for examining Portland’s legacy of scarred women and homophobia in college sports generally. Sticking with the former might have been plenty, but the brief look at the latter doesn’t hurt the movie. Though an editor might have spared us the short interview clips from the NCAA spokeswoman who seems to be adjusting to a new Paxil prescription — more odd than informative.RENE PORTLAND IS a homophobic asshole. There’s just no getting around it. And while you wouldn’t want to be one of the lesbians who played basketball for her when she coached the Pennsylvania State University’s women’s basketball team, or even be a straight player who is gay-friendly, watching a documentary about this jerk is gripping.
What does hurt the movie — again, not too terribly — are some distracting and unnecessary re-creations, some soundtrack moments that don’t quite match the mood, and annoying blocks of text, including one that gratingly turns the Philadelphia Inquirer into the Philadelphia Enquirer from one shot to the next. Parts of the movie glide along elegantly. Then you suddenly feel you’ve been tackled as another re-creation pops up. Sticking with the talking head would’ve been better than showing us hands hovering above a coffee table set with apparent care. An athlete is recounting the evening Portland came to her home to discuss a scholarship, but you tune out the important story because the screen is filled with coffee cups and odd pastries: Hey, is that a Ring Ding?
Past the distractions, the interviews with Portland’s former players are moving and inspiring. It takes no interest at all in basketball to feel for these lesbians who get teary-eyed as they recall their persecution under Portland decades earlier. The presentation may be a little unpolished, but there is definitely heart in Training Rules. Whether you’re familiar with the story or are coming to it fresh, Training Rules offers a villain worthy of hissing from the audience and heroes to cheer for.
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