SXSW 2019: Olympic Dreams

Alexi Pappas and Nick Kroll in Olympic Dreams. Photo Credit: Jeremy Teicher.

Olympic Dreams is the first of its kind as this film takes us into the daily lives of an Olympian and a dentist in an active Olympic Athlete Village.

Cross-country skier Penelope (Alexi Pappas) has her first event shortly after the Opening Ceremony takes place during the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.  Sometime shortly thereafter, Penelope becomes friends with volunteer dentist Ezra (Nick Kroll).  The two of them start hanging out so much during the Winter games that you can’t help but wonder when they’ll just kiss each other already.  Eventually, Penelope runs into Gus Kenworthy only to eventually find out that he’s gay.

Olympic Dreams falls along the traditional beats of the romantic comedy genre.  While it has nothing new to add to the genre, we manage to get an inside look at an Olympian’s daily life.  It’s very rare that we get such an inside look in an narrative feature.  There have been such narratives to take place during the Olympics but how many were filming as the Olympics were going on?  That’s what makes this film so exciting to watch.  While Nick Kroll and Alexi Pappas carry the film’s weight, many Olympians make cameos.  Two of them, Gus Kenworthy and Morgan Schild, have meatier roles in the film.  They do so while working around their own competition events.

Alexi Pappas is a former Olympian herself so it comes as no surprise that she lets us get inside her head.  She takes us to the dining hall where athletes are in the zone before or after their event.  This is a sacred place for athletes so for her to take us inside is truly brave.  I don’t know if brave is the right word here but I’m choosing to use it for now.

I give a lot of credit to this entire crew for taking this project on while the Olympics are going on.  It’s one thing to shoot a documentary or news feature during the games.  A narrative feature is a whole different story.  To put it simply, this is unheard of!  Moreover, try doing so in very cold temperatures!  Regardless, Jeremy Teicher–who was mentored by Paul Thomas Anderson–serves as a one-person crew here.  Even for an independent film, this is insane.  The end result should make it all the worthwhile.

At its core, Olympic Dreams is about chasing one’s dreams.  Thanks to the Olympic Foundation For Culture & Heritage’s Olympic Art Project, we get a first-hand Olympic experience.  Who knows if or when this kind of film will ever happen again!

DIRECTOR:  Jeremy Teicher
SCREENWRITERS:  Alexi Pappas, Jeremy Teicher, and Nick Kroll
CAST:  Nick Kroll, Alexi Pappas with Gus Kenworthy, and Morgan Schild

Olympic Dreams holds its world premiere during the 2019 SXSW Film Festival in the Narrative Spotlight program. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.