By Adam Ray Palmer
This is Jeremy Teicher’s (director) third feature-length film following his 2012 movie, Tall as the Baobab Tree, and his 2016 effort, Tracktown – also based on ‘Olympic dreams’ so to speak.
Set at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, a young cross-country skier bonds with a volunteer doctor after her competition ends in the Athlete Village.
Joining Jeremy on the writing credits are the two main stars, Nick Kroll and Alexi Pappas. Kroll plays a dentist named Ezra, or Dr. E as he likes to be known by. Ezra is a smart, well-rounded individual who is searching for a ‘constant’ in his life. He enjoys watching the Olympics hence why he volunteered, but he longs for something ‘normal’ as a 37-year-old man heading in a direction that he isn’t completely set on.
Opposite Nick Kroll is Alexi Pappas who plays Penelope, a shy, introverted athlete who dreams of the sporting heights. In reality, she is quite the lonesome figure, with minimal friends, whether that be colleagues or actual mates. Her bunking buddy in the Athlete Village is the only person she slowly begins to let in, until she meets Ezra and begins to open up.
The chemistry between the pair is in abundance, but also paramount to getting the best out of the movie. The whole narrative is built around the them. The plot is by no means original, but what is interesting is how Jeremy Teicher structures the story telling. He takes numerous, specific scenes and splices them together. This is not a criticism, but an intelligent, snapshot look at how a blossoming relationship can have its ups and downs.
As a tender, delicate film largely portraying a mix-match relationship, the camerawork is a pivotal component in ensuring the delicacy. The movie is made up of at 80% close up and point of view shots. It’s like we are in the room with them, creating an intense look-in. It’s sensitively romantic rather than being over-the-top claustrophobia.
For example, there are multiple sequences where this technique really works. It is usually in one of two places – the dining hall or Ezra’s dentist chair. The film feels so authentic when it comes to relationships. There’s small talk, sarcasm, talking rubbish and those moments of nothingness. Those moments where two people can just be with each other and no words need to be said. Olympic Dreams get these scenes right.
It’s an enjoyable film, with a focus on how relationships can make or break your dreams. We of course know the title, but in reality, the Olympics is just simply the setting. It’s a lot profounder than first impressions. Yes, there’s comedic scenes, yes, there’s some safe, romantic sequences but it does go a little deeper than that at times. The unoriginality of the movie does constantly creep in throughout the runtime and it is hard to let that go. Thankfully, the performances from the protagonists are everything here – and certainly worth 80 minutes of your time.
Cineroom’s rating: 3 stars
Olympic Dreams screened at the 2020 Glasgow Film Festival as part of the ‘Window on the World’ strand