'Olympic Dreams' film review: Wistful, charming dramedy with a heart of Olympic gold
The sheer audacity of filming on location during the Olympic Games alone makes the romantic drama "Olympic Dreams" (screening during the 45th Seattle International Film Festival) a filmmaking feat. But its underlying anxiety beneath a veneer of charm elevates it above the standard meet-cute, adorable date flick.
Many films have been set during the Olympic Games, but "Dreams" earns degree-of-difficulty filmmaking points for shooting a scripted drama, on location, during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. The spectacle of the Olympics adds to the overwhelming atmosphere of the film's backdrop. Director Jeremy Teicher has achieved no small production accomplishment just by jumping through all the hoops needed to get the opportunity just to film during the PyeongChang games - but the logistical victory of actually getting scene filmed.
The sheer scope and scale of the event adds authenticity not merely as a cool looking backdrop - but the immensity of the Games speaks to Ezra's romantic love for the event, as well as the overwhelming ephemerality and uncertainty troubling Penelope. The scenes filmed at the Olympic Village offer a rare behind-the-scenes peek at life for elite athletes during the biggest event in their lives. These candid, behind-the-scenes casual moments articulate what Ezra loves about the Olympics from a far -- yet, it also epitomizes the daunting "what comes next" existential void Penelope is hurtling toward. And despite being surrounded by thousands of fans and hundreds of other Olympians and volunteers, "Dreams" frames the games in a manner that makes the feel isolating and lonely.
The fact that "Dreams" stars Pappas and Kroll co-wrote the film with director Teicher makes the story feel very organic and collaborative. The script has a firm grasp on Ezra and Penelope's individual crises at all times, yet the film injects personal, almost non sequitur, moments take add the texture of the Olympics into their journeys and doesn't wholly wallow in their troubles. Pappas and Kroll share an undeniably cute, if seemingly unlikely, chemistry between a world class athlete and a volunteer dentist. The story plays with what makes them different on the surface, but "Dreams" is best when it actively explores their shared uncertainty about the future.
Final verdict: Wistful and lovely, "Olympic Dreams" shares elements evocative of the alienation of "Lost in Translation" and the fleeting intimacy of "Before Sunrise."
"Olympic Dreams" screens during SIFF 2019. This sports romance drama is not yet rated and has a running time of 83 minutes.