by Matthew Rowe
"GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling"
Bradford Thomason, Brett Whitcomb
Familiar to fans of syndicated television in the late '80s, "GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling" shows the inside world of the low-budget women's wrestling outfit that was seemingly made for the present day trade of weird VHS collectors. The hour long TV show put on by these ladies every week was surreal. There's campy fun, political incorrectness, social commentary and spandex, all wrapped around the general charm of professional wrestling.
Often, documentaries that feature past participants as talking heads over archival footage about their experiences fall flat, and the people interviewed aren't as interesting as the thing they were a part of. Luckily for us, "GLOW" is full of fascinating characters who are able to tell a story that doesn't waste a moment of the running time.
At the heart are women who were recruited to wrestle for the promotion. While some sought out work in pro rasslin', most were just actresses who responded to a casting call for a new television show, unaware of the content. Viewers get a sense of the uneven behind-the-scenes-work, where producers with no money had to get pretty creative. The women who lived the role of characters with names like Tina Ferrari, Jailbait, MTV, and Babe the Farmer's Daughter seem baffled that the show was a success and had fans.
The clips compiled from the show are a great and funny thing to watch. It's absolutely absurd viewing, but the best part of the film is when it switches gears to current footage of the GLOW reunion. There are genuinely touching moments between people meeting for the first time in 20 years who have left things unsaid. Many of them don’t even know the real names of the other women they worked and lived with, only by the stage names they were given. The tone of the documentary changes, but it is not out of place. It's just another surprise in a movie full of them.