It’s been a long time coming for the WNBA to get the respect it deserves, and a long time for its biggest-market franchise, the New York Liberty, to get their long-sought-after first championship. These two threads are the heart of Unfinished Business, a new documentary on Amazon Prime Video that seeks to tell the history of the pioneering women’s league through the lens of one franchise.
UNFINISHED BUSINESS: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: The importance of the WNBA in North American sports can’t be overstated — the league broke ground for women in sports, and it’s only now starting to get the media coverage it deserves. In Unfinished Business, award-winning director Alison Klayman and a chorus of voices from the league’s past and present come together to tell that story in parallel with the present-day New York Liberty’s chase for an elusive title.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: There’s nothing quite like what Unfinished Business is trying to do, but there’s shades of a number of great things–the watching-a-team-come-together drama of The Last Dance with the women-fighting-for-their-place inspiration of A League of Their Own.
Performance Worth Watching: This isn’t just about one star–some of the biggest names in the WNBA show up, along with key figures in the league’s history like former league president Val Ackerman. But some of the best scenes come from the players who were there at the league’s launch, like former Liberty players Sue Wicks, Crystal Robinson and Teresa Weatherspoon, along with top-level stars like Rebecca Lobo and Lisa Leslie.
Memorable Dialogue: The importance of the WNBA and the players’ dedication to social justice is underscored by the opening narration. “This league has always been able to stand on what we thought was right. We had to stand first of all to be able to play–as women, in America, to have a league we had to stand so that people know we belong. This is where we belong.”
Sex and Skin: None.
Our Take: Unfinished Business feels a bit like two movies at the same time.
On the one hand, the film tries to take on an expansive history of the WNBA–in fact, it’s described in Prime Video’s materials as “the definitive history of the WNBA”. That’s a big story to tell, spanning a quarter-century of league history, and it’s one that’s been grossly underrepresented for just as long. This story is told through interviews with luminaries from the history of the league, players such as Sue Wicks, Crystal Robinson and Teresa Weatherspoon and former league president Val Ackerman.
At the same time, it’s an as-it-happens documentary following the present-day New York Liberty (well, present day for the 2021 season) in their still-going chase for the franchise’s first-ever WNBA title. This story is told by present-day Liberty players including Sabrina Ionescu, Didi Richard, Betnijah Laney and more.
It’s understandable the desire the filmmakers have to tell as much as possible, because the history of the WNBA has been long marked by indifference or outright hostility from major sports media outlets. There are a lot of stories that should have been told, a lot of stories that haven’t gotten the proper documentary treatment.
That said, the present-day Liberty sequences — while often strong — aren’t quite as compelling as the league-history ones, especially if you’re not personally invested in the Liberty’s lack of a title. It’s important to see these scenes–to see how far the league has come in popularity, and to see how the players have been at the forefront of social justice causes in sports–but it also feels like it distracts from the desire to tell the “definitive history” of the league.
All in all, Unfinished Business is a solid piece of filmmaking, and it’ll be great to see more films and shows covering the WNBA in the future, but it’s held back by a desire to tell multiple stories in harmony.
Our Call: STREAM IT. There are times where it seems like the film is trying to do too much at once, but that’s largely because there’s so much story to tell, and Unfinished Business does a strong job of telling that story.
Scott Hines is an architect, blogger and proficient internet user based in Louisville, Kentucky who publishes the widely-beloved Action Cookbook Newsletter.
The post Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Unfinished Business’ on Prime Video, a Documentary Film About The History of the WNBA appeared first on Decider.