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Late Bloomers (1997)
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by Chris Parry

"Just because stereotypes are going the other way doesn't make them right."
2 stars

A dumpy school secretary in Middle America with a husband whose libido has long since gone south strikes up a friendship with the school ladies’ basketball coach, only to end up doing the wild thing and having every homophobe in the school demand they be sacked. That's Late Bloomers in a nutshell - and a nutshell is as interesting and believable as this film ever gets.

Connie Nelson (wasn’t she a country and western singer?) is Dinah Groshardt, a tall, skinny, pants-wearing, short hair-wearing women’s basketball coach at Eleanor Roosevelt High. She’s bored and boring, alone and lonely, just doing her job and ignoring the fact that she’s stinking at it. Dee Hennigan is Carly Lumpkin, the sort of stereotypical house-frau that suits the name Carly Lumpkin just perfectly. Her kids hate her, her husband ignores her, what do you think’s going to happen next?

That’s right, nude basketball.

Late Bloomers is at its best when it’s just being a love story about two folks that find a little excitement in each other. The film is at its worst when it tries to be important and ends up creating cliches not necessarily with its main characters, but rather with everyone else.

When news gets around of this ‘meeting of the mounds’, the entire school explodes into rumor, gossip, accusations, bigotry and even Oreo cookies hurled in anger, leading to the ladies in question being sacked from their jobs. And this is where things get really ridiculous.

First of all, this isn’t a flick that was made in 1977, it was made in 1997 – a good decade or so after America was told, in no uncertain terms that it’s uncool to sack someone based solely on what they do (or who they do) in their spare time. The one place this doesn’t apply is in Cincinnati Ohio, as the forward thinking morons there actually passed a law making it legal to discriminate against someone based on their sexuality, but I’m going to take a guess and assume this film wasn’t based there. So we have two people, supposedly good at their jobs, sacked because they sleep together while owning similar naughty bits. AND THEY DON’T SUE!

Then we have Carly’s teenage daughter (Lisa Peterson) who hates the idea of a lesbian mother so much that she yells a lot and deliberately sabotages a basketball game her school is about to win and tells her boyfriend that her mother is gay. “But don’t tell anyone” – and of course he does just that.

This chick is so bad, so unbelievable, so poorly written and executed, and that’s before you even take into account that the actress playing this teenager looks about 25. Sure, she looks great, but gimme a break here, didn’t anyone have a teenage actress’ phone number going into this shoot? This girl has wrinkles you could ‘ski the moguls’ on.

Late Bloomers would have you believe that we should all ignore stereotypes, but the stereotyping here is so thick you could mow it. Witness teenage daughter’s boyfriend claiming that, if his parents found out he was dating a lesbian’s daughter they’d take his allowance away. Or the Christian woman who walks up to Carly in a crowded basketball arena and says “how can you even show your face?” Or the parents who call ‘time out’ from the stands and take their kid out of a basketball game in progress because they just heard a rumor that the coach is a dyke.

In the words of the slaves that built the Great Pyramid – “Give us a fucking break!”

Of course the whole thing ends wonderfully happily and everyone learns to forgive and love and ignore each other’s differences and you can practically hear them all humming It’s A Small World After All over the damn credits. If watching middle-aged women get naked and shoot hoops is your thing, then by all means grab a copy of Late Bloomers. But if you’re looking for a realistic, meaningful commentary on the whole gay rights issue, this couldn’t have any less going for it.

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originally posted: 11/22/02 12:58:02
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User Comments

11/23/02 y2mckay The nude basketball part - *shudder*- lets keep the lesbians young and HOT :-) 2 stars
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  27-Jun-1997 (NR)


  02-Feb-1998 (MA)

Directed by
  Julie Dyer

Written by
  Gretchen Dyer

  Connie Nelson
  Dee Hennigan
  Gary Carter
  Lisa Peterson
  Esteban Powell
  Joe Nemmers

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