Having been an avid rower at the Olympic level, I found this film to have fallen short on a number of different levels. Although the cinematography was often quite beautiful, the screenplay was trite and inaccurate. The film, which is based loosely on Halberstam's very detailed and well-done book, THE Amateurs, attempts to follow the men from Harvard and Yale training for the 1984 Olympic Team (after suffering thru the 1980 boycott), focusing on single sculler Tiff Wood (a member of the 1980 Team who stays out another 4 years to try to make the 1984 team). The insertion of the Harvard coxswain as a love interest to the main protagonist, Tiff Wood, was irritating and demeaning. With respect to the actual rowing footage, using actors training for the Olympics was silly - they kept wobbling in their boats and their lack of skill was painfully obvious - and I actually laughed at loud. It would have been far better to use the extras (who were actual Olympians) and shoot real trained rowers, using only a few closeups as cutaways. From a script and character development standpoint, the film fails to create any three dimensional characters and the film claims "the tie between Tiff Wood's double and Joe Bouscaren's double in the Olympic Trials is now legend." Unfortunately, both doubles were hammered by the actual winner of the Olympic Trials, Paul Enquist and Brad Lewis, who came out of no-where to win the Olympic Gold Medal that year (1984). The interesting story, which is not covered in the film but which is covered in detail in Halberstam's book, is that the boats selected as "camp" boats (and thus given a designation that they are the preferred boats to race in the Olympics) all went over to Switzerland to compete prior to the Olympic Trials. When these boats returned to the US, they then had to prepare for the Olympic Trials - and had little time to rest prior to the trials. Every one of these camps boats was defeated (Enquist and Lewis in the double stayed home in the US and undertook unusual training methods, including meditation, shadow rowing, and other unorthodox ways, but which were very effective in terms of getting two people in sync) as well as the quad (which contained Bouscaren. The other interesting piece is the 1980 boycott, which the film skims over. An entire generation of athletes suffered. Both the men's and women's 1980 team have stayed quite close - and the men began to race the Soviet team on a regular basis after the boycott, which is what sport is all about.
It was such a shame to see the amount of money put into this picture and what the film truly could have been had it more closely followed Halberstam's book and been written by a talented screenwriter.
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