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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Olympic Dreams is a romantic comedy starring comedian Nick Kroll set during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The film, which takes place inside the official Olympic Village, was made as part of the Olympics Artist-in-Residence program and was co-created/written by and stars long-distance Olympic runner Alexi Pappas. It has cool behind-the-scenes footage, and everyone in the movie (aside from Kroll) was truly a part of the Winter Olympics. Sharp eyes will catch a bevy of Olympians in the background practicing, horsing around, and serving as supporting cast members. This is a "will they or won't they" romance: Kroll's character isn't sure whether he's still engaged or even in a relationship after his fiancée declares them "on a break." Parents will likely appreciate that he's morally conflicted about taking a new relationship beyond friendship when his heart is still committed to someone else. Iffy content is pretty minimal: There's a muttered "what the f--k" and a nongraphic conversation about athletes losing their virginity, and characters drink socially. Visually, there are a couple of nonsexual glimpses of Pappas in underwear, and it's implied that one character sleeps nude.
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Hollywood Variety says "offbeat charmer is an artful mix of documentary-style realism and wistful romanticism.
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What's the story?
During the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, young cross-country skier Penelope (Alexi Pappas) competes on the first day and feels an emptiness and uncertainty after achieving her lifelong OLYMPIC DREAMS. When she meets dentist Ezra (Nick Kroll), who's volunteering at the Olympic Village -- and whose engagement was recently put on hold -- they become friends and try to help each other figure out their future.
Is it any good?
The fifth collaboration between Olympic long-distance runner Pappas and director Jeremy Teicher (her husband) isn't great entertainment, but it's still fascinating to watch. The couple conceived Olympic Dreams as part of the Olympics Artist-in-Residence program, which gave them rare behind-the-scenes access to the 2018 Olympics. In fact, this is the first fictional feature film to ever be shot inside the Olympic Village, and it was done with only a three-person crew: Kroll, Pappas, and Teicher. The trio served as director, camera, audio, script supervisor, grip, lighting -- everything. Athletes who were competing in the 2018 games were recruited to cameo (Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy turns his scenes into a pivotal supporting role, and he's fantastic). And with Pappas co-writing, the story offers insights into the emptiness and doubt an athlete can feel once the event they've trained for their whole life is over.
While it's certainly a feat to pull off a film of this caliber without a support crew, certain elements are noticeably lacking. For instance, the audio mix is off, and the music often overpowers the dialogue, making it hard to hear. Plus, it's clear that the script was more of a bullet-point outline and that Kroll and Pappas are making up their lines on the fly (and not especially well). Penelope has depth, but her limited acting ability doesn't translate it effectively. Elite athletes may recognize the loss Penelope feels once she's completed her goal, but to a regular person, her nonstop lamenting may come off as whiny and insecure. Kroll doesn't deliver the laughs we expect from a comedian of his experience, and the story is lacking. Olympic Dreams' characters are at a crossroads emotionally and in their careers -- they're drifting. Unfortunately, so is the film.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what the social-emotional ramifications might be for athletes who achieve a big goal at a young age. With only three prizes given out for each event at the Olympics, what might it feel like to have done your best but still rank so low in what could well be the final competition of your life?
What's Olympic Dreams' message about taking risks? Contrast Penelope's behavior as someone who's willing to take risk with Ezra's safer decisions in both his personal life and career.
How is this film similar to or different from other romantic comedies?
This movie was made primarily by a one-person ground crew and the two starring actors. What do you imagine were the advantages and disadvantages of working with such a small group? Describe the level of teamwork that might be required.
This is the first narrative feature set inside the real Olympic Village during the Olympic games. What insights did you get from watching? How does blending a fictional story with a real, live global event enhance or distract from your movie-watching experience?
- In theaters: February 14, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: May 19, 2020
- Cast: Nick Kroll, Alexi Pappas, Gus Kenworthy
- Director: Jeremy Teicher
- Studio: IFC Films
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Cars and Trucks, Sports and Martial Arts, Friendship, Horses and Farm Animals
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some language and sexual references
- Last updated: May 18, 2020
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