'Kill': a good, non-sensational, TV movie

November 06, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman. ABC's "Willing to Kill: The Texas Cheerleader Story" is tough on three subspecies of the gender: big-haired Texas women, budding women who are cheerleaders and women who have given birth to little women of their own. Put any two of them together, "Kill" implies, and you get a well-manicured monster.

In 1991, in real life, Wanda Holloway, a Texas mother of a would-be cheerleader, tried to put a contract out on the mother of her daughter's rival for the squad. The case made far too many headlines and seemed a natural for a bad TV movie.

But "Kill," which airs at 9 p.m. Sunday (on WJZ, Channel 13), is a good TV movie. It stands back and concentrates more on the mentality of Channelview, Texas, than the attempted murder; it's ruminative, not sensational. With Lesley Ann Warren playing Holloway as a weirdly sympathetic sociopath, "Kill" is more of a commentary on the Woes of Womanhood than on the woman it portrays.

Holloway and her friend Verna Heath (Tess Harper) live in identical ranch houses in a world circumscribed by their high school careers on one end and their daughters' high school careers on the other. All dressed up with nowhere to go in their suits and pearls, they're latter-day June Cleavers, with the mean streak you only hoped June possessed.

Heath, who still keeps her high school trophies in her living room, is a relentless coach-mother. She videotapes her daughter's cheerleading practices. "I'm gonna show you what I was talking about, when I said your side bananas was gettin' kinda sloppy." But she's nothing compared to Holloway, who employs a somewhat more felonious method of getting her daughter on the squad.

The high school daughters (Olivia Burnette and Lauren Woodland) are sketched so blandly it's hard to feel much about them, except to pity them for their choice of mothers. But the scenes between Holloway and her ex-brother-in-law Terry (William Forsythe) are wonderful.

"Terry," says Holloway, "if she doesn't make it this year, she ain't never gonna make it."

"We can do just about anything," Terry says. "Break her legs, burn down her house, tie her up and ship her to Egypt."

Holloway sighs. "The things you do for your kids."

Naturally, Holloway's not doing all this for her daughter. Mom's the one who wants to be a cheerleader. Her misplaced, vicarious ambitions are the real tragedy of this story; "Kill" simply fleshes out what we already knew.

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