Thursday, October 30, 2008

Gymnastics: The Movie

Like a lot of people my age, I was converted to gymnastics by the movie Nadia, the film made not long after Comaneci herself defected from Romania, an event that captured headlines in Australia, a country that couldn't even begin to care about gymnastics, back then.
I remember the first time I saw it. I sat there in my neighbor's lounge room, mouth agape, and we watched the film over and over again. All summer long we watched the movie-when we weren't practicing flips on her trampoline or making up floor routines on her perfectly square stretch of lawn or hosting gym competitions with some other kids on the street, moving from house to house in pursuit of the best balcony railing to use as a beam, or playset to use for the bars event. Heather, my neighbor, was actually lucky enough to gymnastics classes, my parent cuoldn't afford it. That didn't stop me. Every saturday morning, when Heather got home from her class, I made her show me everything she learned. The we'd watch Nadia again.
I saw parts of the movie again recently, om television. It, you probably won't be surprised to find, isn't as great as I remember it, but it was a little trip down memory lane. Besides, it's a classic of its kind. Here's a few reasons to love/hate the movie Nadia.

- Though set in Romania, where parts of it were obviously shot, all the actors bear a sort of dubious American accent with a hint of something identifiably foreign. They couldn't find some Romanians to do it? Nah, they probably just thought we wouldn't read subtitles.
-The younger Nadia is a heinous actor. But they probably had a little trouble finding someone who could act and turn cartwheels.
-The young Bela Karolyi was believable in his almost manic hyperactivity and bulldoggish pursuit of greatness in his gymnasts. Not unlike the Bela we see these days, only younger.
-On that note, the Karolyis are way too good looking (is there any chance they were producers?) to turn out the way they did!
-The formation of the friendship between Nadia and Teodora is done through a daggy, daggy, daggy little dance routine (This irked me for the very same reason musicals irk me- they somehow know the same dance moves, move in complete unison, then act like it never happened. Weird) Someone on a forum once said that it is part of the Young and the Restless theme. I don't knopw if it is true. But I wish it was. That'd be hilarious!
-It did make me feel kinda sorry for the dad. Poor old dude, seeing this guy steal his daughter with his fancy gymnastics and champion talk.
-The actress playing the baby Nadia had just the right nasally-whiney tones to stick the line "But I wanna be a champion" in your head for the rest of the day after hearing it.
-The actress playing the older Nadia does actually does look a bit like Nadia Comaneci.
-But the film Teodora is way cooler and prettier than the original Teodora and you can't help wondering how the real Teodora felt about the storyline about her always being in Nadia's shadow.
-You've gotta love the heavily edited, not-even-nearly-perfect bars routine they use for Nadia's first ten.
-It does actually attempt to convey a little bit of the upset in internal Romanian gymnastics politics that Bela Karolyi caused when he shifted the junior centre away from Deva.
-The way they make Nadia look like a fatted pig stuffing herself before slaughter is kind of cruel. Nadia Comaneci must have loved this interpretation of her life...not.
-It had just the right amount of tension, body issues, hints of suicide and infighting to make enough DRAMA to keep you going until the end of the film!

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