(director/writer: Jeremy Teicher; screenwriters: Alexi Pappas/Nick Kroll; cinematographer: Jeremy Teicher; editor: Pete Ohs; music: Annie Hart, Jay Wadley; cast: Nick Kroll (Ezra), Alexi Pappas (Penelope), Gus Kenworthy (Gus), Morgan Schild (Maggie); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Jeremy Teicher, Alexi Pappas, Nick Kroll, Will Rowbotham, Nora May; IFC Films; 2019)
“Though covering familiar rom/com territory, it does so pleasantly enough.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Indie filmmaker Jeremy Teicher (“Tracktown”/”Tall as the Baobab Tree”) is the co-writer-director of this wistful rom/com, shot like a documentary in a guerilla-style with a hand-held camera by the director (giving it a fly-on-the-wall flavor). It’s set against the gorgeous backdrop of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea (with the location, in my view, being the star of the film).Though covering familiar rom/com territory, it does so pleasantly enough and still manages to take us down different trails. Nick Kroll and Alexi Pappas, the film’s co-writers, are also its charming stars, who have a compelling cautious romance at the Olympics.
It should be noted that Teicher was granted permission by the Olympic Committee to freely film in around the Olympic Village (where the athletes stayed), as well as at various competition venues, and at the Pyeongchang eateries and night spots.
The 22-year-old Penelope (Alexi Pappas) is a neurotic introverted cross-country skier, while the 37-year-old Ezra (Nick Kroll) is a non-athlete nerdy outgoing volunteer dentist at the Olympics.Though different from Penelope, he is still also a lost soul. Because of volunteering, Ezra gets a free pass into the Olympics and a chance to freely mingle with the athletes.
At the Athlete Village dining hall, the competitive Penelope, a loner, gets herself mentally ready for her upcoming early event by putting on her headphones and tuning out the world. She’s irritated when Ezra awkwardly tries to meet her and rejects him for interrupting her concentration and need for solitude before the big race. They will meet again under better circumstances after initially getting off on the wrong foot, which is a familiar set-up for mainstream films of this genre.
Things take their time developing before the couple get intimate, as the film gets busy examining such things as what it means dedicating so many years of your life to get a medal and not get it (Penelope loses and as a result feels deflated). It also superficially tries to make some social commentary on the thoughts of the South Koreans hosting the Olympics. But this attempt comes off as shallow pandering and was the film’s major fault.
The heart of the film has the physically fit but emotionally shaky Penelope trying to get herself together to live a full life despite being disappointed by the results of her failure to medal at the games.
The film is at its subtle best when it shows how the couple react when they dramatically kiss for the first time. Thereafter the lovable film takes us to a place that’s not all that predictable and seems to be boiling over with the promise of better dreams to come for both protagonists.
REVIEWED ON 2/24/2020 GRADE: B