You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Olympic Dreams’

Jeremy Teicher’s offbeat charmer is an artful mix of documentary-style realism and wistful romanticism.

Jeremy Teicher
Nick Kroll, Alexi Pappas, Gus Kenworthy, Morgan Schild.

1 hour 23 minutes

Describing a movie as “sweet” may be interpreted by some as damnation with the faintest praise. But, really, there is no more appropriate adjective for “Olympic Dreams,” an engagingly wistful dramedy about opposites attracted while adrift far from home. Set against the backdrop of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where indie filmmaker Jeremy Teicher multitasked in semi-guerrilla, one-man-band style as director, cinematographer and sound-recorder, it glides gracefully across stretches of familiar territory and pleasant surprises, propelled by the appealingly complementary lead performances of Nick Kroll and Alexi Pappas, who share co-scripting credit with Teicher.

Teicher was granted freedom to film in around the Olympic Village, where athletes, officials and trainers were housed, as well as at various competition venues, and Pyeongchang eateries and night spots. As a result, there is a virtually nonstop sense of cinema verité-style verisimilitude throughout the film, greatly enhancing the illusion — or is it an illusion? — that we are watching real-life events unfold while fictional characters blend seamlessly into the picture. Echoes of “Lost in Translation” abound, but not so much to be anything more than an occasional source of mild amusement.

Penelope (Pappas) is a cross-country skier who’s simultaneously excited and scared as she prepares for her first Olympic competition. Ezra (Kroll) is an outgoing but neurotic dentist who has volunteered his services at the Olympic Village. Their first meeting is hardly cute, since she is too tightly focused on her upcoming event to appreciate his awkward attempts to ingratiate himself to a fellow American.

Don’t misunderstand: Ezra isn’t exactly flirting. He has a fiancée back home, and even though they’re in the middle of a long-distance “time out” that wasn’t his idea, well, the guy remains hopeful.

Fairly early on, Penelope does poorly in her competition, leaving her with little or nothing to do for several days until the Games conclude. Meanwhile, Ezra also finds himself with an abundance of time on his hands. Naturally, the two strangers in a strange land repeatedly cross paths in the Olympic Village, and something like a friendship starts. Each is mulling the possibility that, after a long pursuit of a personal goal, some thought must be given to a Plan B. And as the movie progresses, to paraphrase Tom Stoppard’s memorable line in “The Real Thing,” each slowly realizes that such a contingency plan might involve being someone else’s possibility.

What follows is not so much a mating dance as a passive-aggressive pas de deux, with the normally introverted Penelope sporadically overcompensating with stabs at being a wild child, and Ezra clearly conflicted about taking what for him would be an uncharacteristic step out of line. (The age difference between them — she’s 22, he’s 37 — isn’t pressed too hard in the dialogue, but there are unmistakable signs that it’s a factor in his thinking.)

As the push-pull proceeds toward an ending that hits the sweet spot between the inevitable and the unexpected, Pappas (a newcomer who actually did compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics) and Kroll hit all the right notes in a pitch-perfect duet. A love song? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s a melody that could spark shocks of recognition for anyone who has ever wandered past nodding acquaintanceship toward the possibility of a close encounter while in a far-off place, or even a different time zone, where it was hard to tell what rules really still applied.

Film Review: ‘Olympic Dreams’

Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (Narrative Spotlight), March 15, 2019. Running time: 83 MIN.

Production: An Olympic Channel production. Producers: Jeremy Teicher, Alexi Pappas, Nick Kroll, Will Rowbotham, Nora May. Executive producers: Greg Groggel, Nicholas Weinstock.

Crew: Director: Jeremy Teicher. Screenplay: Alexi Pappas, Teicher, Nick Kroll. Camera (color): Teicher. Editor: Pete Ohs. Music: Annie Hart, Jay Wadley.

With: Nick Kroll, Alexi Pappas, Gus Kenworthy, Morgan Schild.

More Film

  • Cannes Placeholder Red Carpet

    Cannes: KKR and Atwater to Launch Library Pictures, Boost Local-Language Film

    Local-language film making is to get a fillip through the launch of Library Pictures international. The company is backed by a consortium of investors led by media investment firm Atwater Capital and a newly formed Germany-based media company established by KKR. The new firm is intended as a content financing entity to support industry-leading filmmakers [...]

  • After21_0020.ARW

    Sequel to Independent Movie Hit 'After' Launches in Cannes

    “After,” the highest grossing independent film of the year so far, is set to return with a sequel, with stars Josephine Langford and Hero Fiennes Tiffin reprising their roles. Voltage Pictures is selling the new pic in Cannes. The first film, which had a reported production budget of $14 million, grossed more than $50 million [...]

  • Liam Gallagher and Son shopping at

    Cannes: Screen Media Buys 'Liam Gallagher: As It Was' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Screen Media has acquired North American rights to Charlie Lightening and Gavin Fitzgerald’s feature documentary “Liam Gallagher: As It Was.” The film follows the former Oasis frontman as he finds himself on the periphery of the rock ‘n’ roll world after years spent at the white hot center of the music world. Screen Media will [...]

  • La Casa de Papel Netflix

    Madrid Region Booms as an International Production Hub

    Madrid is booming as never before in its 125-year film history; arguably, no other European site is currently transforming so quickly into a global production hub. A 20-minute drive north of the Spanish capital, a large white-concrete hanger has been built beside the Madrid-Burgos motorway, at the entrance to Tres Cantos, a well-heeled satellite village and industrial [...]

  • Emirati Comedy

    Cannes: Stuart Ford's AGC Takes World Sales on Emirati Comedy 'Rashid and Rajab'

    Stuart Ford’s AGC International sales arm has taken global distribution rights outside the Middle East to Dubai-set concept comedy “Rashid and Rajab” which will be hitting movie theaters in the region starting in June. The deal between the film’s production company Image Nation Abu Dhabi and AGC, which have a close rapport, was signed in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content