After The Exorcist, Linda Blair's career got a bad rap because nothing else came close to the level of success she got from that film. Her later films such as Exorcist II, Roller Boogie, and Repossessed tarnished her credibility as a serious actress, especially considering the many Razzie nominations she unfortunately received throughtout. However, she did excel in demanding TV-movies where she played the much-abused victim. In director Richard Donner's 1977 TV movie, Sarah T.- Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic, she proved that she could handle uncomfortable subject matter, giving an unusually realistic portrayal of a young girl on the edge.
Blair plays Sarah T, a 15-year-old teenage girl dealing with her parents' bitter divorce and trying to fit in at with her new school. She tries to mend her pain with alcohol, and lots of it. At first, she seems like a casual drinker, having one or two bottles of wine, but then it starts to become erratic and troubling after you find out that she has been doing this for quite awhile. She degrades herself for another drink and another in a series of shocking moments: getting caught shoplifting beer from a liquor store; sleeping with an older guy in order to get the beer that she asked him to get for her, and most tragic, stealing her boyfriend's (Mark Hamill) horse and colliding into a highway where it is killed. It is here that she is forced to confront herself and finally admit that she is an alcoholic, and that the road to sobriety is a long and often harrowing journey.
Honestly, despite this being a TV-movie from the late '70s, Blair was really terrific here. Her performance is a little too real, to the point where it could have been based on reality. With this, she can be a really amazing actress, especially with the right material that she truly deserves. She is also given great support by Verna Bloom, Larry Hagman, William Daniels, and Michael Lerner. Although I did enjoy Hamill's performance, it could be a little exaggerated, especially near the end where he cries over his horse. However, he was just getting started, pre-Luke Skywalker, so I'll cut him some slack. Often the case with TV-movies, the film threatens to veer into that campy movie-of-the-week element, but it manages to stay away from that with some hard-hitting truths about addiction.
The special features include a new interview with Donner and producer David Levinson; new interview with Blair; and a photo gallery. Shout Factory has given this almost lost film a new 2K restoration that looks great, despite it being a '70s TV-movie.
In the end, I think that the subject of teenage alcoholism doesn't get often told, but with Sarah T., maybe its time for that conversation to open. This topic should be told with an open mind and open heart.