Friday, February 5, 2010

Flying (Paul Lynch, 1986)

Under normal circumstances, whenever I come across a person during my day-to-day travels whose lifelong dream involves being the best in the not-so lucrative field of tumbling while in a leotard, I, like most sane individuals, ridicule them without a hint of mercy. However, my mocking outlook has been shaken to its very core after witnessing the epic tightness of Olivia d'Abo in Flying (a.k.a. Dream To Believe and Teenage Dream), another in the long line of nimble Canadian gymnastics flicks made between years 1984 and 1986. I mean, I don't think I'll be able to besmirch or belittle the same way ever again. Yet, the fact that I'm cool with that is not only a testament to my first-rate levelheadedness, but a misguided tribute to my overall growth as a semi-functioning human being. Of course, helping me get to this point was the guileless effulgence of this Paul Lynch (Bullies) directed masterpiece; a film that teaches us that every dream, no matter how stupid or idiotic, is worth fighting for in the long run. The drudgery of working at your abusive step dad's dry cleaning shop combined with the shrewish taunts hurdled by a duo of malevolent brunettes, a Buffalo, New York–it's actually Toronto, Ontario (you'll have to do more than name-drop the Bills and show Irv Weinstein reading the news on television to fool me)–teen named Robin (Olivia d'Abo) is at the end of her chalk-covered rope.

Nursing a bum knee (which she got in a car accident that killed her much beloved biological father) and getting nowhere with the hunky guy using the antiquated rowing machine, the determined young whippersnapper decides to throw herself back into the cutthroat world of competitive gymnastics.

Hopping on her modish moped (she wears goggles and a black lace scarf over her face), the spunky gal barrels up Yonge Street to secretly train at a dilapidated warehouse. Reconnecting with her tangible self, and, not to mention, getting a much needed break from her unruly home life (her step dad thinks she dresses like a "lesbo"), Robin's graceful tumbles and aggressive kicking motions are instead cheered on by a marijuana-smoking security guard (Denis Simpson from Polka Dot Door), who, in a slightly demented way, provides her with the fatherly encouragement that she is severely lacking at home (her late father used to assist in her training).

The first of many training sequences, the one that takes place in the warehouse sets the tone for what kind of training montages we should come to expect throughout this montage-heavy movie. The sight of the gorgeous Miss d'Abo pushing her sexy body to limits of physical exertion in conjunction with a dizzying mix of synth-rock and pinkish-red smoke is what makes Flying such a pleasurable experience.

Also, the act of watching her acquire the necessary skills required to crush her dark-haired rivals, Leah (Renee Murphy) and Stacy (Samantha Logan), is the stuff unremorseful erections are made of.

A working class heroine in the classic sense of the term, Robin enlists the help of the school's bus driver (Eugene Clark) and a fellow tumbler named Carly (Jessica Steen) to fight the wicked forces that permeate her fucked up plain of existence.

In-between training to become the newest member of "The Flyers," the cleverly succinct name of the school's gymnastic team run by a wonderfully short-haired Rita Tushingham, Robin finds the time to squeeze a little romance into her busy schedule when she decides to hook up with Tommy (Keanu Reeves), a goofy yet sweet student who has, up until now, been unsuccessfully trying to woo the living snot out of her.

The usually over-matched Keanu is surprisingly adept at playing an empty-headed slacker. And in terms of believability when it came to portraying a male adolescent who is openly in love with a wounded gymnast who dresses like a new wave bag lady, I thought the unpolished actor did an excellent job of conveying this unorthodox infatuation with an unrefined cluelessness.

Grinding her pelvis with reckless abandon (with the help of dance double Cynthia Rhodes), the luminous Olivia d'Abo takes plucky underdogs with something to prove to whole another level of greatness.

Whether staring longingly in the window of the neighbourhood leotard shop (her agile mind envisioning what her mouth-watering crotch area would look like with the garment's taut, resilient fabric pressing tightly against the crumpled softness of her girl-based infrastructure), or touchingly recounting the reason why she loves tumbling so much in the first place (she compares the sensation of tumbling to what a bird must feel like when it's flying), Miss d'Ado manages to make her character's gymnastics dream not seem frivolous at all.

Utilizing her topnotch empathy face and a fistful of gumption, the British born actress creates an atmosphere where you can't help but root for her when it come to destroying the competition at a big meet against the Niagara Falls Rockets and getting back at that those snooty yuppies in training.

Even though I've already mentioned her, the stellar work of Cynthia Rhodes (Staying Alive) during the multiple montages that take place in Flying should not be undervalued. The aforementioned warehouse scene, the tumble-off at the drive-in, and the blistering energy of the final floor exercise (set to "Dancing Madly Backwards" by The Flirts) wouldn't have been the same without Cynthia's pronounced physical presence.

Oh, and, by the way, the Robin's floor exercise was so awesome, that I played air drums, air synth, and air guitar while it transpired. Yeah, that's right, I performed the holy trinity of pretend musicianship.

In closing, I would most definitely put this film, and its many montages, in the same exalted league as Heavenly Bodies, because when it comes to delivering a story that is filled with romanticism, adversity, synthesizer-based pop music, tumbling, physical exertion, and mildly perverted camera angles, Flying is an unambiguous success.

video uploaded by JulioNeri


  1. I remember watching this a few times back in the late 80's when I had it on VHS (under the title "Dream To Believe")

    It oozes Canada in all it's celluloid pores.

  2. Irv Weinstein!!!! You are awesome.

    An immediate family member had some notable Buffalo-area newscaster hit on her--no, it wasn't Irv. Actually, I don't remember who it was.

    I've never heard of this movie. While gymnastics films aren't really up my alley, I would have thought the Buffalo--or the fake Buffalo setting--would have rang a bell. You know, like that Burt Reynolds/Goldie Hawn movie, Best Friends.

    *sniff* at the Yonge Street Wiki page.

  3. @Cinema Du Meep: Oh, it oozes, all right. The film makes a few valiant attempts to ooze Buffalo, but trying mask the underlying stench that is Canadian culture in such a half-assed manner is always going to be fraught with failure.

    @Karim Amir: Whenever the subject of Buffalo or Western New York is brought up (which is probably every two or three days), the name Irv Weinstein immediately springs to mind.

    It's almost as good as Stick It.

    Like I said, the attempts the film makes to appear as if it takes place in Buffalo are pretty feeble. So, I'm not surprised it didn't show up on your Buffalo-scope... Buff-dar... Irv-o-gram... Tonawanda wand.

    Speaking of cities, Amanda Seyfried was on Jimmy Fallon's show the other night (promoting The Notebook 2) extolling the virtues of Charleston, SC.

  4. This is the best review of a movie I have ever read. You had me a 'perverted camera angles'. Sure, it's at the end of the review, but you know what I mean. Brilliant stuff.