Lady Trojans is less a film about young lesbians on a high school basketball team than it is an audiovisual diary of the high school experience, viewed through a lesbian lens.
A particularly personal documentary, the film focuses on director Elizabeth Hesik’s sister Anna, and her friendships and romantic relationships with her teammates, many of who happen to be lesbians.
We begin with a grown Anna reminiscing about her old days as a star player for the Catalina High School Lady Trojans, circa 1990-1993. She takes us through her story, beginning with her freshman year as a new recruit on the team (in both basketball and lesbianism), and continuing through her entire high school experience.
Using present-day interviews with herself and with a variety of friends and teammates, actual 1990s home video footage (these girls apparently brought their camcorder everywhere) and re-creations shot specifically for the documentary, Lady Trojans conjures up a most delightful (and realistic) picture of teenage romance and capital-D drama.
Anna begins playing basketball due to her height, and quickly finds herself wrapped up in a team comprised of very out lesbians.
She’s immediately drawn to one popular, pretty teammate, alienating her straight best friend. She soon begins a love affair with the team’s chief “player,” Quinn, an adorable baby butch who probably slept with every other girl on the team at one point or another. Anna moves on to the equally lovely Vanessa once it becomes clear that Quinn’s not the monogamous type.
From there, there’s drama and heartache as a love triangle — more like a love web — forms and the girls break up, come together, have sex, fight, and play basketball. Friendships break down; teenage hormones fly wild; and terrible early 90s fashions are worn.
Certainly, the strongest element of the film is its realism. There’s no airbrushing the zits, no censoring the stories from first sexual encounters, and no mitigating the awkward, gawky attempts at romance. This is high school life, laid bare.
In fact, parts are downright embarrassing to watch. There are scenes where the girls are playing to the camera — emulating 90s dances, doing “sexy” moves and making funny faces. It’s a blend of innocent, childish stuff with genuine expressions of budding sexuality — something we rarely see so frankly portrayed onscreen.
There are also scenes where Anna actually reads her high school poetry — in fact, her love poems — to the camera, blushing red. Other interviews have Anna stooped over old pictures, making fun of her more awkward (or perhaps less photogenic) phases.
It’s very familiar to anyone who survived their high school days, and about as far from the “Hollywood-ized” representations of teenage life as one can get.
One look at some of the bad hair days and exquisite fashion faux pas depicted in Lady Trojans will send some viewers right back to 1991, minus the gloss from their rose-tinted glasses. Actually, the hair really does deserve special mention here: everything from the mullet to a hilariously described “Kirk Cameron hairdo” is represented, to great effect.