A time capsule from 1972 may contain some bell bottom pants, Chuck Taylor All Stars, Woodward and Bernstein clips from the Washington Post and maybe a burned bra. What it should contain is one of the basketball uniforms from Immaculata College, women’s college basketball’s first ever national tournament title holder and the title characters of “The Mighty Macs.”
Writer and Director Tim Chambers tells the story of rookie coach Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino) leading the team to the title with no resources or gym to practice. She makes due with oven mitts, defensive drills and lectures on teamwork. Mother Superior (Ellen Burstyn) hires Rush because she hopes she can save the players from their hormones, as she doesn’t really have time for basketball. She is busy trying to save the college and its campus from the claws of the local banker and the monsignor who apparently have big development plans.
In 1972, men may have believed that women’s lives only existed as they related to men, but in 2011 women are allowed to have dreams, jobs and identities outside of those relationships. Thanks to women like Cathy Rush. Unfortunately, Chambers’s film characters are defined exclusively as they relate to the men in their lives, so we don’t learn anything about them. The challenges they faced inside their own families and in society to be part of this team, or to even attend college, are only hinted at in the film. Rush’s relationship with her former college coach seems to be her driving force, but it is nuanced only in the mandatory post game coach’s “good game” handshakes.
Rush gives lectures to the girls on teamwork, but these lessons don’t play themselves out on the court. Instead the girls pull their wardrobe and make-up resources to makeover one the players for a team photo. Rush’s husband (David Boreanaz) wants her home as his personal servant. He bristles when forced to speak to her about anything that doesn’t concern meeting his personal needs. Then in the middle of the movie, apparently afraid no one will cook his dinner, starts paying attention to the his wife’s winning basketball team.
Kim Blair, Katie Hayek, Meghan Sabia, Lauren Bittner, and Kate Nowlin are given little to work with portraying the team members, but each manages to distinguish her character. The film would benefit from showing us more about them and their relationships with one another. Chambers forces Rush to teach her off the court lessons in the context of boyfriend break-ups and choosing wedding dresses.
We get the most insight into Sister Sunday (Marley Shelton) an assistant coach and young nun questioning whether to take her final vows.
One of the best parts of the film comes at the end when actual footage of the Macs is shown. Biographies of the team members are shown along side the footage. The women’s long lists of lifetime accomplishments go by far too quickly to read, so viewers will once again be left with the feeling that they don’t really know them.
2012 marks the fortieth anniversary of the Might Macs win. Hopefully this date will inspire someone to make a documentary about these amazing women, so their story can be told.
Run time: 1 hr. 42 minutes, Rated: G