Review: ‘Girl Wrestler’

Barely substantial enough to merit its 57-minute running time, "Girl Wrestler" sustains interest primarily due to appealing subject. Documentarian Diane Zander follows Tara Neal, a 13-year-old Austin resident, as spirited girl competes in co-ed state and national wrestling championships.

Barely substantial enough to merit its 57-minute running time, “Girl Wrestler” sustains interest primarily due to appealing subject. Documentarian Diane Zander follows Tara Neal, a 13-year-old Austin resident, as spirited girl competes in co-ed state and national wrestling championships. Various matches rep stops on a farewell tour, since Texas state regulations will bar Tara from grappling with boys as soon as she reaches 14.

Zander unabashedly sounds feminist note while rendering Tara’s mounting frustration and disappointment as teen nears the end of her wrestling eligibility. Parents and school officials who decry co-ed wrestling matches as unseemly, if not downright lewd, come across as nervous Nellies, or worse. Unfortunately, helmer inadvertently scores points for opposing p.o.v. each time she shows Tara — who gradually develops into a shapely adolescent as pic progresses — in a clinch with a male opponent. Zander drops intriguing hints about Tara’s motivation, suggesting girl began wrestling to attract attention from emotionally distant father after her parents’ divorce. More often, though, “Girl Wrestler” is propelled by Tara’s charismatic gumption, as aud develops rooting interest in her ability to score points and manage takedowns. Tech values are adequate.

Girl Wrestler

Production

Produced, directed by Diane Zander.

Crew

Camera (color, digital video), Zander, David Brown; editors, Zander, Joanna Rabinger. Reviewed on videocassette, Houston, March 22, 2003. (In SXSW Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 57 MIN.
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