The earnest, if somewhat flat-footed, documentary “Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story” works best as a public service announcement on behalf of its title subjects. The movie uses interviews with women from across the Hollywood stunt world to demonstrate their determination and abilities, even while it also decries the familiar movie-industry sexism that asks them to crash the car but won’t let them drive it.
The women are interesting, and their work is dynamic. In clips from their films, they execute daring feats with precision and skill. And while the documentary successfully champions stunt women’s dignity in the workplace, it lacks finesse — failing to showcase their talents in a way that would be exciting for an audience outside the industry.
Most of “Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story” is spent, well, telling. In onscreen interviews, young stunt performers interview their asphalt-shredding, car-flipping elders about their time in the business. There are some wonderful characters here, most particularly the veterans Jadie David and Jeannie Epper, who regale their doting successors with tales of performing alongside Pam Grier and Lynda Carter.
The film is less memorable when it looks at stunt work itself. There are a few scenes that showcase the women falling from ceilings or forcing their tires into a skid, yet whether the director April Wright is zeroing in on stunt coordination or stunt driving, she fails to dynamically present the action. There’s little sense of how stunt people actually execute their seemingly impossible feats and without this sense of work, these scenes seem mundane, even unexciting. The proselytizing is righteous, but the movie could use more curiosity about how the magic happens.