This week is a “twofer” with Goldie Hawn flicks. Wildcats isn’t the classic that Private Benjamin is; it’s not even half as good. It’s actually a formula flick about Molly McGrath, a high school girls’ track coach who’s chomping at the bit to coach football. In the opening prologue, we see a group of girls playing pin the tail on the donkey. Then the camera pans over to a young Judy kicking a football around. From there, we see her tossing the pigskin around with her father, a coach (and she’s damn good at it).
She’s unfairly passed over for a coaching position in favor of a home economics teacher who doesn’t know what a nickel defense is (neither do I, which is why I don’t coach football). But she’s offered a chance at coaching a high school in a tough area of Chicago. How tough is it? When she’s rushed by attack dogs on her first entry to the school, the principal explains, “I put the dogs on when the armed guards are off duty.”
Predictably, the players don’t respect her because of her gender. But she wins them over in a montage where she outruns all of them on the track surrounding the gridiron (my favorite sequence in the movie, which I occasionally watch on YouTube if I need to be inspired).
The movie goes according to the formula. At first, the team sucks, but through McGrath’s coaching, they win games and conquer their rivals at the city championship, and she shows up their vindictive, sexist coach.
What makes it stand out is the lack of a romantic subplot. McGrath is divorced and a badass single parent to two girls. Her ex-husband is presented a complete drip who tries to take custody of the kids because he feels she’s been a negligent Mom due to her newfound coaching duties. He does have a change of heart at the end. In most films, they might get back together, but not here. Her primary relationship is with her daughters and the players, and he stays with his equally drippy girlfriend. Much like Judy Benjamin, Molly McGrath is a single at heart badass.
If you watch, stay through the end credits. There’s a catchy closing song that’s my second favorite sequence in the flick. I couldn’t not tap my hands against the knees in rhythm with the song.