“Olympic Dreams” Is A Serious Step Forward For Nick Kroll
To many, Nick Kroll is just a comedian, albeit quite the creative comedic force. Whether it’s his hit Netflix show Big Mouth, the broadway show Oh Hello!, or any number of other things, Kroll is a big deal within comedy. However, he’s also an underrated actor, something he’s able to display in Olympic Dreams, an independent romance that he stars in and co-wrote. All of the skills that he’s put out into the world aimed at laughter and satire and in evidence here, just used instead for dramatic and romantic effect. Unsurprisingly, Kroll proves more than adept at evoking a whole new range of emotions from his audience.
The film is a romance set during the 2018 Winter Olympics. Set almost entirely within the Olympic Athlete Village, a young cross-country skier named Penelope (Alexi Pappas) at loose ends after her competition forms a bond with a volunteer doctor named Ezra (Kroll). Penelope is lonely and Ezra is at a crossroads, currently on a break from his fiancée, so they quickly develop a companionship. They wander around the Olympic Village, bantering and also just taking in the uniqueness of their environment. A romantic vibe is there as well, though one complicated by Ezra’s life back home. With only limited time together, every encounter has an added significance and weight. In an indie like this, the plot takes a backseat to the characters, so it’s important that we quickly come to like Ezra and Penelope, which is certainly the case. Jeremy Teicher directs a script that he co-wrote with Kroll and Pappas. Teicher also handles the cinematography, while the score is by Annie Hart and Jay Wadley. The small cast also includes Gus Kenworthy and Morgan Schild.
Nick Kroll shows some very nice dramatic chops here. He’s gotten the chance to be a leading man before, but this is him being a traditional romantic lead. He has a low-key charm, allowing some of his comedic skills to shine through, but largely separating his humorous vibe from the character of Ezra. As for Alexi Pappas, she’s a real life Olympic athlete, making her lived in performance even more admirable. The two of them have a really nice chemistry together, suggesting both a really deep friendship as well as the potential for something more. Together, they make the material worthy of something cinematic, lifting up a simple premise.
Olympic Dreams bears more than a passing resemblance to Lost in Translation, at least in its premise (though it’s a whole other ballgame, in terms of quality. This is solid, while the Academy Award winner is a modern masterpiece). Watching Kroll and Pappas just experience the Olympic Village makes for some low key charm. Teicher captures a lot of stolen shots, really hammering home that the cast is actually at the Olympics. The screenplay, written by Kroll, Pappas, and Teicher, isn’t anything to go wild over, but it sets up the premise and allows the two leads to play off of each other. The best scenes have them together, while the sequences that separate them are on the weaker side.
This week, Kroll fans can see a whole new side of him when Olympic Dreams opens up. Don’t go in expecting Big Mouth or even anything particularly funny, but if you’re in the mood for an indie romance, there’s something compelling here. Give it a look and keep an open mind, particularly if you’re used to one type of Kroll performance. If you do so, there’s a good chance you’ll find this pretty charming and well worth the time.
Be sure to check out Olympic Dreams, in theaters this weekend!