Helen was 45, still hot.
I don't agree at all with the one star
awarded this Canadian film by the Toronto Star, but I thought they had
one funny line in the review:
"In managing to be both simultaneously
meek and inscrutable, Rowing Through is at least representative in its
role as the first official Japanese-Canadian production ever"
I don't know. It seems to me that
Japanese-Canadian projects should concentrate on cartoons with
giant-eyed kids playing hockey and holding pelts. Plenty of pelts.
Kidding aside, I don't
think the movie is meek at all. It realistically portrays the flaws of
some athletes who rebel childishly against authority; it features a 24
year old Olympic hopeful with a 45 year old Russian girlfriend; it
includes a crazy energetic sex scene which ends when the woman says
"slow down, it's not a race"; and it shows a bunch of athletes behaving
the way athletes really behave - talking dirty, playing jokes on each
other, constantly jealous of each other. It has toplessness from a
45-year-old woman and full-frontal nudity from an attractive woman in
her 20s. The main character calls a press conference so he can call U.S.
President Jimmy Carter a "little peanut-farming cocksucker."
Does that sound "meek"?
The least meek thing
about it is that it lets us into the thoughts of the athletes during
times of stress, and they really think some pretty nasty things about
As for "inscrutable"
... well, maybe.
The screenplay is based
on a David Halberstam book called The Amateurs, which posited that the
oarsmen of the 70s were the last real amateur athletes, because whatever
they did in rowing, they did for their own satisfaction. No outsiders
followed their results. They attracted no cheerleaders, no fans, no
groupies, no sponsors, no Wheaties boxes, no endorsement contracts, and
no press. During the Olympics, they were always far from the main
venues, attracted no sponsors, and got listed as an afterthought in the
newspapers. And that was the summit of their fame. Their other
competitions never made the papers at all.
The book and the film
detail the struggles of three of these athletes and their mutual coach.
Those four men (Tiff Wood, John Bigelow, Joe Bouscaren, Harry Parker)
actually worked day-to-day on the project, and were allowed to keep
everything in the film in synch with the way it really happened. Not
that it matters to the audience. It could all be fictional and you'd
never know it because, after all, nobody remembers these guys. That's
pretty much the point. Their obscurity made them perfect as the
metaphorical representation of genuine athletic purity.
The main character in
this drama lived an athletic life even more anonymous than usual for a
rower because he couldn't even get to the Olympics for his one moment in
the sun (or at least near the sun). After all the years of self-denial
and rigorous training, he wasn't permitted to participate in the 1980
Olympics because he was American and the United States withdrew from the
games. In case you had forgotten, President Carter pulled the American
athletes out of the Moscow Olympics because Russia invaded Afghanistan.
At the time, Carter's action merely seemed like a pointless,
grandstanding gesture which had the side-effect of ruining the lives of
a lot of people who trained all their lives for the Olympics, many of
whom would never get another chance, because an athlete's window of
opportunity is very short in some sports. From our current perspective,
Carter's gesture seems more than merely futile, because the United
States has since proved that it is not really all that opposed to
invading Afghanistan! Unfortunately, that generation of athletes can't
get their lives back, although the main character in this film tried his
best to do do. He postponed his dream for another four years, and kept
training well past the age when it was practical to do so.
Rowing Through has a
gritty, real feel to it that is missing from most sports movies. In
essence, it's the Jack Webb version of a sports movie - "just the facts,
ma'am." There's no winning one for the Gipper, no unrealistic last
minute miracles, no poetic speeches. The result? Well, let's face it,
unembellished reality is not always interesting. The script, like the
reality it adheres to, can be boring at times, not to mention
repetitious, excessively technical, excessively sentimental, and
But it also has moments
when it is very, very good.