Director Michael Ritchie’s film WILDCATS should’ve hit at the right time, with more women entering the workforce in the 80’s, but didn’t thanks to a tepid reception from critics and audiences alike. The general response was that it wasn’t as solid as Private Benjamin, Hawn’s career-defining comedy about a privileged trophy wife forced to find her identity in the Army after her husband dies. However, it’s my personal belief that Ritchie’s comedy about a girls-track-coach-turned-inner-city-football-coach – one whose abilities are underestimated by practically everyone – is a far greater, underappreciated, often misunderstood, and wildly feminist gem. Continue reading…
Goldie Hawn’s character, Molly McGrath, is everything you’d want in a coach. She’s fully capable, scrappy, whip-smart and doesn’t suffer from a lack of gumption. She faces doubts from not only her ex-husband (James Keach), but also rampant sexism from the school board, and her team of insubordinate, rebellious underdogs (which include Mykelti Williamson, Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson). If that’s not enough, she’s going through a bitter custody battle over her two daughters (played by Robyn Lively and Brandy Gold), who act out when her attention is split.
Molly’s expressions of independence and spirited sass are certainly rousing by today’s standards. During the bathtub scene, it’s empowering to hear her stand up to her ex-husband, taking pride in finally being able to make her own decisions. Hawn’s fortitude is on full display in the training montage where Molly runs the track in the pouring rain with her players on a bet, proving she’s just as tough as they are and earning their respect. But it’s the climax that scores a touchdown. She tells her ex-husband she wants to keep coaching the team as an example to her daughters that they can do, and be, anything.
Of course the predictable occurs in the narrative – the team suffers from setbacks both on the field (with players dropping out) and off (with Molly forced to choose between her team and family). But the film always keeps feminist sentiments (those fueled by determination, ambition and passion) at the forefront of her drive. I believe that’s wholly thanks to Hawn’s active producer role with Anthea Sylbert, who also produced 1984’s PROTOCOL and 1987’s OVERBOARD with Hawn. Hawn’s three-picture producer stint with Warner Brothers yielded great rewards in terms of the box office and society – and this one specifically continues to inspire. As they say in the game, this one moves the chains.