Chris Cahill is a young athlete who competes unsuccessfully in the 1976 U.S. Olympic trials. She meets a more experienced track and field competitor, Tory Skinner, and their friendship evolves into a romantic relationship.
Tory gives tips to Chris on how to improve as she trains for a shot at the 1980 Olympic team in the pentathlon, but their coach, Terry Tinghoff, insists on being the only one whose advice Chris follows. Anger and jealousy develop, more so when Chris begins a heterosexual relationship with Denny Stites, a swimmer.
Personal Best is a 1982 film centered on a group of women trying to qualify for the American track-and-field team bound for the 1980 Olympic Games. Despite their commitment to their training regimen, their dreams are thwarted when the United States announces its boycott of the Games for political reasons, leaving them with only the informal “personal best” marks they achieved during training to connote their achievements.
The movie starred Mariel Hemingway and real-life track star Patrice Donnelly, along with Scott Glenn as the coach of the track team. It was written, produced and directed by Robert Towne.
The film was praised by critics for providing a realistic look at the world of women’s athletics, for exploring the complex relationships that can exist among teammates and their coach, and for its sensitive portrayal of the relationship between an older lesbian (Donnelly) and a younger bisexual woman (Hemingway). Despite good reviews, it flopped at the box-office.
Personal Best (1982)
Directed by: Robert Towne
Starring: Mariel Hemingway, Scott Glenn, Patrice Donnelly, Kenny Moore, Jim Moody, Kari G. Peyton, Jodi Anderson, Maren Seidler, Martha Watson
Screenplay by: Robert Towne
Production Design by: Ron Hobbs
Cinematography by: Michael Chapman
Film Editing by: Jacqueline Cambas, Jere Huggins, Ned Humphreys, Walt Mulconery, Bud S. Smith
Costume Design by: Ron Heilman, Linda Henrikson
Set Decoration by: Rick Simpson
Music by: Jill Fraser, Jack Nitzsche
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: February 5, 1982