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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tracktown is a quirky indie sports drama about a young running star preparing for the Olympic trials. It stars Alexi Pappas, a real-life Olympian and elite runner who also co-wrote and co-directed the film, so it's got plenty of insider details about life as an elite athlete. Several scenes focus on the main character's extremely muscular body, and she reveals some body-image issues. Characters flirt and kiss, one sex scene includes brief nudity (a woman's breasts). There's also some college-party drinking and occasional swearing ("s--t," "a--hole"). Teamwork and perseverance are clear themes; the story shows that there are no shortcuts to success.
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What's the story?
With just a few days to go before the final race to make it onto the U.S. Olympic track team, Plum's coach lays down the law: No running, so her body can rest. After all, the qualifying heats were pretty brutal, and Plum got banged up. But not running is harder than it sounds for someone like Plum (played by elite runner Alexi Pappas, who's also a real-life Olympian), who doesn't know what to do with herself when she's stripped of the one activity that adds structure to her life. Wandering around beautiful Eugene, Oregon -- which is often called TRACKTOWN -- Plum strikes up an unlikely relationship with the cute guy at her local bakery, something she's usually too busy training to pursue. In the process, she starts to get a sense of what she's sacrificed to become a elite athlete, what life is like for regular college kids, and what she truly wants.
Is it any good?
This coming-of-age film (of sorts) treads in familiar territory but explores it through a surprising prism -- the life and work of an elite runner -- making for a quiet-but-charming movie. Pappas, an accomplished runner but not a natural actress, isn't exactly at her best as a thespian, but Plum is a character we don't often see in movies of this genre. Plus, to Pappas' credit, she did co-write the script and co-direct the film. Tracktown's world is truly fascinating, peopled by obsessives who are gifted with otherworldly talent and ruled by schedules, mileage, and odd rituals (a raw egg downed every single morning upon waking, frequent naps in an altitude tent).
It's a lonely life in many ways, and regimented, too, but Plum is such an interestingly drawn character that a predictable story no longer feels predictable. Still, it's over-indulgent: First, not many of the cast members are particularly good actors (save for Andy Buckley and Rachel Dratch as Plum's parents), and although it's fun to see real-life Olympians make cameos, only the most committed track fans are likely to appreciate the athletes' best attempts at acting. The story also gets a bit sluggish as it makes its way to the finish line. And, surprisingly for a film about an elite runner, there isn't really enough about track and field itself, which is disappointing. But Eugene, Oregon, is gorgeous: It will beckon to audiences for a run and a visit, no question.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Tracktown depicts being an elite athlete. What has Plum sacrificed to get where she is? Would you be willing to make the same choices if it meant a chance to compete in the Olympics?
- In theaters: May 12, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: May 16, 2017
- Cast: Alexi Pappas, Andy Buckley, Rachel Dratch, Chase Offerly
- Directors: Alexi Pappas, Jeremy Teicher
- Studio: Orion Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Character Strengths: Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
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