Familiar underdog sports documentary is distinguished by pointed recollections and riveting storytelling
MAIDEN (Alex Holmes). 97 minutes. Opens Friday (July 12). See listing. Rating: NNN
Thirty years ago, Tracy Edwards put together the first all-female crew to sail in the Whitbread Round the World Race, a 33,000-mile voyage across violent and frigid waters that no competitor, sponsor or journalist believed these women could survive.
Edwards’ boat and team were called Maiden, as is Alex Holmes’ documentary revisiting their inspiring fight to compete in the male-dominated and openly misogynistic sailing world. That feminist struggle was as fierce as the fight to survive a deadly nine-month trek to the Antarctic and back.
Mixing archival footage with contemporary interviews, this doc has many exhilarating moments but is also perfunctory in style, relying on viewers to simply stand back and listen to Edwards and her crew in awe while it recounts the usual ups and downs that ripple through every underdog narrative. It’s a sports movie about women that is just as generic as those about men. But Maiden is distinguished by the crew’s pointed recollections of how they were treated 30 years ago.
Edwards, a riveting storyteller, recounts her struggle to secure financing from sponsors who didn’t want to risk their investments on women putting themselves in peril. That left the Maiden crew scrapping a junkyard boat back to working condition for the competition because they couldn’t afford something new.
The extra hoops they had to jump through – the obstacles that set them back as they tried to move the needle forward – are all too familiar for anyone who has been listening to the struggles women face in the filmmaking, politics or corporate worlds.
The movie is catnip for the gender parity conversation that ends on a triumphant note – which quickly turns sour when you realize that 30 years later the tide hasn’t turned.