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The Hot Flashes

2013 | 99 min | R

The Hot Flashes


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Theatrical release date

 12 July, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

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The Hot Flashes Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, July 11, 2013

“The Hot Flashes” is exactly the film one would expect from such a title. It’s a specific movie made for a specific audience, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with a softball pitch, it feels a little strange to be so far removed from the point of view director Susan Seidelman is working to illuminate. Thankfully, there’s a little more to the feature than a stream of menopause jokes, with “The Hot Flashes” more of a sporting comedy than a lament for the loss of menstrual cycles. While its predictability is a foregone conclusion, Seidelman manages to keep the picture approachable and occasionally amusing, smartly utilizing the varied gifts of the cast, who often look stunned to be starring in a basketball comedy.

Discovering the impending closure of a mammogram truck that services rural Texas, Beth (Brooke Shields) makes it her mission to cover the financial gap left behind by poor fundraising. Determined to keep the truck around, Beth brainstorms ideas to acquire the necessary loot, eventually settling on three basketball games between the local high school girls squad and a ragtag collection of former players. Gathering divorcee Clementine (Virginia Madsen), pothead Roxie (Camryn Manheim), politician Florine (Wanda Sykes), and closeted lesbian Ginger (Daryl Hannah), Beth brands the team “The Hot Flashes” and commences a heavy routine of practice, overseen by little person Coach Paul (Mark Povinelli, in a helpful performance). While the community is baffled by the prospect of watching middle-aged women battle teenagers on the basketball court, Beth remains undeterred, only wounded when husband Lawrence (Eric Roberts) reveals his wandering eye. Fighting low attendance and internal strife, The Hot Flashes struggle to become unified, threatening the mission of breast health that initially inspired the trio of games.

Okay, so “The Hot Flashes” works in more than a few menopausal references, most located in the opening act when Beth fights the titular pressure with impatience and pills, trying to reconcile what’s happening to her body. However, the gong whacks of aging woes are soon traded in for basketball memories and training, observing the fearless leader crack open a yearbook to locate the right players for the impossible high school challenge. The screenplay by Brad Hennig takes the potential for combustible personalities seriously, serving up a disparate group of women currently basting in the doldrums of their lives, initially refusing Beth’s request for a few practice sessions, only to find the sporting distraction helping to heal old wounds and awaken the senses. Each character is scripted a specific journey that’s established and conquered in 85 minutes, making “The Hot Flashes” obvious but not particularly painful, as the cast is game to go where Seidelman leads, showing the right amount of spirit for such a conventional endeavor.

Beyond the basketball training montages and game sequences, “The Hot Flashes” takes time to iron out character woes, from Florine’s concern about her political reputation to the animosity shared Roxie and Clementine, both clinging to old boyfriend business. However, Beth’s situation of spousal suspicion is perhaps the bravest of the subplots, with Lawrence a surprisingly unrepentant cad actively seeking the end of his marriage by cheating. The adulterous excursion brings up tender issues of self-worth and stagnancy in advancing years, and the emotions are nicely textured by Shields, who does an impressive job in the lead role, refusing to cheapen the material through caricature. For all its broad antics and paint-by-numbers scripting, “The Hot Flashes” does manages to bring a few domestic issues into view, adding weight to a feature of monumental fluff.

“The Hot Flashes” stretches its big game finale over the most of the movie, offering three contests with the high school squad marked by outside disinterest, bullying teen players, corrupt referees, and official school board condemnation, threatening to destroy what Beth has painstakingly built while her domestic life erodes. There are few surprises to “The Hot Flashes,” and the material contains its share of groaners and lame ideas (a visit to a karaoke joint reeks of comedic desperation), but there’s also a determination to Seidelman’s direction that holds the picture in place, and its interest in health issues and cancer awareness (Robin Roberts cameos as herself) is commendable. There’s predictability a-plenty, but also some heart to make the pains of familiarity palatable.

Starring: Brooke Shields, Daryl Hannah, Wanda Sykes, Eric Roberts, Camryn Manheim, Virginia Madsen

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