Monday, March 18, 2019

SXSW with Abe: Olympic Dreams

I’m excited to be attending the film festival at South by Southwest for the second time, and I’ll be posting reviews throughout the week as I see as many movies as possible!

Olympic Dreams
Directed by Jeremy Teicher
Narrative Spotlight

Sporting events have a power to bring people together that many other things do not, particularly because race, religion, and other identifying cultural factors don’t matter nearly as much when you’re cheering for the same team. That notion is amplified exponentially at the Olympics, where citizens of countries feel enormous pride in being represented by their chosen athletes, who in turn know that their entire nation’s hopes are riding on their success. It’s an already exciting and larger-than-life place to be, and setting a romance within it is a terrific idea.

Ezra (Nick Kroll) travels to PyeongChang, South Korea as a volunteer dentist for the Olympic Winter Games in 2018. As he takes in the wonder of his surroundings and chats up athletes from all around the world, he meets Penelope (Alexi Pappas), a cross-country skier about to compete on the harsh slopes. After her race, Penelope once again encounters Ezra, and the two develop a close bond that feels even more serene due to where they are, though Ezra has trouble fully investing in the relationship because of his lingering feelings for the ex-fiancée he may still have a chance of getting back together with back home.

This film is first and foremost an incredible technical achievement. Filmed on location at the Olympics as part of an Artist in Residence program, it was shot by just one man – director Jeremy Teicher – and involved just two cast actors, Kroll and Pappas, who is herself a real Olympic athlete, competing as a runner for Greece in the 2016 summer games. Real-life couple Teicher and Pappas used their knowledge of Olympian behavior to enlist other actual athletes to appear in the film in informal conversations with both Ezra and Penelope, giving this film an authenticity that others couldn’t possibly hope for since much of its magic was genuine thanks to its setting.

Kroll is primarily a comedic actor, and it’s great to see him in a hybrid dramatic role like this one which allows him to be awkward and funny, representing how most people would feel and act if they got to go to the Olympics in a similar capacity. His chemistry with Pappas, who appeared in Teicher’s previous film “Tracktown,” is exceptional, and the athlete is a complete natural on-screen as well. This film is a wonderful experience to behold, captivating both in the aesthetics of its location and the passion of its two leads.


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