One item to see to before we start this week. At our joint blog, we've got ourselves another Snippet Sunday post. Go on over, check it out, and leave us a comment. Now then, the Winter Olympics start up later this week. While I've got something in mind for my resident dog and cat to comment on, that'll have to wait a bit (I have to get the blogs written, you know), I thought I would review a Winter Olympics themed movie from 1992...
"Introduction is over, conversation finished! Mouths closed, ears to be opened. Pairs means two. You have no partner. You are skating nowhere. And where are you going? Oh, back to Siberia? Skating on small pond is big excitement. And believe me, Gretsky, I am last person who is coming to look for you." ~ Anton
"I swear, you let me down and it'll take them a month to count the blade marks up your back." ~ Kate
"If it was forty below and that button meant the difference between a long satisfying life and a cold horrible death from hypothermia, I still wouldn't give you the satisfaction." ~ Doug
"When we're through here, can we please teach it how to breathe with its mouth closed?" ~ Kate
"Just remember who said it first." ~ Doug
The Cutting Edge starts off in 1988 at the Calgary Olympics, where two athletes literally bump into each other and exchange harsh words before parting ways. Star hockey player Doug Dorsey (D.B. Sweeney), a prospect with a bright future in the game, is seriously injured during a game, an injury that ends his career prospects in hockey. Pairs figure skater and prima donna Kate Moseley (Moira Kelly) has a disastrous performance during her competition on ice. Two years later, Doug is still holding out hopes of somehow getting back in the game while spending his days working. Kate is in the process of disposing of the latest failed partner under her new coach, Anton Pamchenko (Roy Dotrice). Her father Jack (Terry O'Quinn) tells Anton to find another skater.
Anton seeks out Doug, who is everything Kate is not. Where Kate is the refined, elegant, and difficult skater, Doug is laid back, a womanizer, and rather full of himself. She comes from a wealthy background, he's strictly blue collar. And where she has dedicated her life to figure skating, Doug is wary of the entire prospect of getting into those skates. Anton persuades him to at least give it a try.
The two skaters meet again, recognize each other, and immediately don't hit it off. They bicker incessantly on the ice and off the ice, pushing each other's buttons, trading barbs, and annoying each other to no end. So of course that's going to lead to the right kind of sparks. Not to mention competing at the national and international levels, including the Olympics four years after their first meeting.
The film is directed by Paul Michael Glaser, who was an actor in the 1970s (Starsky & Hutch, for instance) before turning to directing. The Running Man is among his credits, and this film couldn't be more different from that one. Glaser adapts the screenplay from Tony Gilroy, who later wrote the Jason Bourne screenplays.
Glaser chooses a rather unlikely subject for a romantic comedy. For those of us such as myself who tend to think of figure skating as the equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard (rotten tomatoes may be thrown at your leisure), he still makes the film enjoyable. It goes into the quirks of this sport- the cultural nuances, like ridiculous costumes and tyrannical coaches (Kate's first coach is, frankly, a complete and utter jerk). And it explores the intense competitiveness of the athlete. His camera work captures the sport very well. While Sweeney and Kelly do some of the skating, some of it must be done by doubles- there's just too much complexity to train actors into doing these kinds of things. Regardless, Glaser's camera angles and choice of frames makes those skating sequences work well, blending actors and doubles as needed without feeling awkward. His style of depicting the sport keeps things flowing nicely, and leaves even those of us who avoid the sport all together understanding what's going on. Granted, the movie isn't even about skating, it's about the relationship between these two people, and those in their lives, and that's where the story really does put its emphasis. Gilroy's screenplay focuses on the characters, puts in a fresh dose of humour, and the director moves things along briskly.
Terry O'Quinn was in the midst of a long streak of character roles when this film came along. Later on he would become best known as the enigmatic John Locke on Lost, but back then he was playing businessmen, federal agents, and that sort of role. His take on Jack is that which you might expect of an athlete's parent. He has invested much in the dream of a medal, perhaps more than his daughter, and there is something of the stage parent in his character, pushing and prodding. He's also a businessman, and while we don't see that side of his life much (aside from the obvious wealth of his estate), O'Quinn plays him as a man accustomed to getting what he wants. Underneath all that, however, is a pride in his daughter.
Roy Dotrice (Beauty And The Beast) plays the Russian coach Anton with a curmudgeonly quality. There's a gruff but likable sensibility to him. As a coach, he's smart- he knows when to push, and when to step back. He's wise in the ways of the world, has something of a poet's soul and a plain-spoken nature, and is willing to take a risk- hence the notion of a hockey player making the transition to figure skating. And Dotrice gets some of the best lines of the film.
The two leads are very well paired and very well cast. Moira Kelly embodies the personality of Kate as we might expect of a prima donna skater. She's got a whole lot of attitude- Anton notes that a prospective partner would rather have worn a cross around his neck and had garlic on hand than to skate with her. Kate has been spoiled her whole life, is demanding and impatient, all too eager to lose her temper, and impossible to work with. It's only gradually that we see more behind all of that, but in the meantime, Kelly plays the character just right, showing us more and more as she goes along. Beyond the difficult nature is someone worth getting to know, with depth.
D.B. Sweeney brings a sort of everyman quality to his performance. He conveys the swagger of a young man who has come to believe what's been said about him- that he's the next Gretsky- so much so that when he loses that, he's still in denial for two more years that his career is really over. Doug doesn't care for the idea of figure skating at first- there's a huge mental adjustment between hockey and figure skating, after all- but he comes to like it. And he holds his own in the ongoing verbal sparring with Kate, giving as good as he gets. He defies the odds and becomes the skater Kate can work with. Because even as the two are arguing endlessly, there's a whole lot of chemistry between them.
The Cutting Edge happens to be a favourite of mine, with two bickering, well rounded lead characters with great chemistry. It's a fast paced romantic comedy that consistently puts a smile on my face. And in this Olympic season, it's worth seeing again.