OLYMPIC DREAMS – movie review

OLYMPIC DREAMS
IFC Films
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Jeremy Teicher
Screenwriter: Alexi Pappas, Jeremy Teicher, Nick Kroll
Cast: Alexi Pappas, Nick Kroll, Gus Kenworthy, Morgan Schild
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 2/3/20
Opens: February 14, 2020

Nick Kroll and Alexi Pappas in Olympic Dreams (2019)

Jeremy Teicher’s movie is about a rom-com about competing in the Olympics, but it is also competing in a crowded fields of other romantic tales opening on Valentine’s Day. Think of “The Photograph,” “Ordinary Love,” and “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” even the horror pick “Fantasy Island,” all February 14th fare. There is just one horror in “Olympic Dreams,” one evoked by the soundtrack. Annie Hart and Jay Wadley’s often pounding music does its best to drown out even the soft dialogue of the two would-be lovers as though director Jeremy Teicher is as uncertain about the pillow talk as his two characters are about their goals.

Other than that, this is the kind of fare often distributed during the Sundance Festivals, too gentle to attract the kind of audience that goes for bit commercial love stories. The two actors, Alexi Pappas as Penelope and Nick Kroll as Ezra are both involved in the script writing along with the director (who in real life is Pappas’ husband).

“Olympic Dreams” may feature Penelope and Ezra’s warm but neurotically repressed conversations but you can’t say that it’s the kind of movie that could or should find a spot even on a Broadway stage. To its credit this is the first film green lighted by the Olympic Committee to shoot on location at the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, giving even people who don’t typically go for rom-coms to see what goes on both on the slopes and behind the scenes at the Athlete Village cafeteria, the active game room, and the parties.

It’s also where too lonely people meet. Penelope competes in cross-country skiing (in real life Pappas is a long distance runner most adept in 10 km runs) while Ezra is a volunteer dentist who at the age of thirty-seven (41 in real life) is understandably unhappy with his position in a New Jersey dental clinic. We don’t really find out why he never used his clinical experience to branch out into private practice, but maybe it’s because at his age he sprinkles the word “like” into his conversations as though he were still a teen or 20-something. But he does have a good dental-chair manner, chatting up the athletes and getting them to talk about themselves before they open their mouths wide.

For her part Alexi is the assertive member of the duo, in effect asking him out on dates, but as we in the audience wonder when (not whether) they will ever “get it on,” we might leave the theater with the impression that fairly severe neuroticism is at work as he rebuffs the advances of the woman fifteen years his junior. Still, you’re not going to get the spoiler here on how everything turns out. That’s all part of the dramatic tension evoked by the twosome.

Here are two people, both the sorts who never make the headlines, though Penelope is an Olympian and that’s something, and Ezra has made it through dental school but is held back to such an extent that in their first argument, Penelope verbally shakes him up, implying that he “snap out of it,” to “just do it.”

Intrusive music aside, Pappas and Kroll are an interesting couple to watch, to empathize with. You will believe that Pappas is an athlete, which she is, and I that Kroll is a Woody-Allen-like stand-up comedian, which he is.

83 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B