Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ice Castles

Somehow, I missed "Ice Castles" when it came out in 1978. And I love Robby Benson. So when a friend recommended it, I was glad to have the opportunity to catch up.

Lynn-Holly Johnson is teenager Alexis Winston, an Iowa girl who lives with her widowed father, played by Tom Skerritt. A figure skater with dreams of Olympic glory, Alexis is trained by the owner of the local ice rink and bowling alley, played with crusty, no-nonsense perfection by Colleen Dewhurst. Benson is her boyfriend, Nick Peterson, who drops out of college, where's been a pre-med student, to follow his own dream of playing professional hockey. (Johnson actually was a professional figure skater before becoming an actress).

Alexis hooks up with a high-powered coach who agrees to work with her despite the fact that, at 16, she's considered over the hill for a skater. Things are going well until, during an unsupervised nighttime skate, Alexis takes a very nasty fall and is left partially blind. (And what a nasty, hard-to-watch fall it is). The second half of the movie is about Alexis' recovery, aided by Nick, who, with some tough love, gives her the will to live and the ability to skate competitively again.

While "Ice Castles" is a pretty typical athlete-overcoming-adversity story, it's quite enjoyable. Johnson is very appealing as the plucky small-town girl with big dreams. And Benson, whose thick, wavy mane of brown hair deserved an Oscar nomination, is great as her strong, yet sensitive boyfriend.

I do wonder how Alexis could appear to be a more graceful skater after the accident. In fact, it's pretty hard to believe she could skate at all when you realize how her vision is blurred. Still, I admit I was a little choked up when Nick walks out onto the ice at the end of her routine to help her after she slips.

The movie's theme song, "Through the Eyes of Love," written by Marvin Hamlisch and Carol Bayer Sager and sung by Melissa Manchester, earned an Oscar nomination.

Since "Ice Castles," Benson has had a prolific career as an actor, director, composer and most recently, a novelist. Johnson starred in several more movies, including the James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only," with Roger Moore. She quit acting in 1996 to concentrate on her family. But later this month, she'll make a comeback when she stars in a Southern California community theater production of "It's a Wonderful Life."


Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther - I can't believe you actually watched it. Wow. Call the cops!

And was Robby Benson's hair really that nuanced that it deserved a first ever Oscar nod? Breathtaking.

Esther said...

Hey, if a friend recommends something, I try to check it out, as long as it's not too scary or violent! And it's a pretty good movie for its genre, although I probably would have liked it even more if I were still a teenager! Ok, maybe an Oscar nod is overstating it, but his hair really is magnificent!

MYMS said...

Ice Castles is an absolute and complete manipulation piece. Taking adeqate actors, and a story, a great theme song, lots of cheese and there you have it. A cry at the end. Every time I watch it, I cry more, and cry earlier in antipication of what is going to happen.

Perhaps I cry so much now because of how these 70's bad, pathetic, weird elements coming together, or if the pathetic, weird, and bad elements of my life growing up in Iowa resonated with the boy makes good, boy get's girl, girl makes it out of Iowa (biggest emotional tug) everyone overcomes adversity, combined with that soundtrack. It is a pitiful, yet successful instrument to make audiences, and me, everytime, cry. Let's call it the Ice Castles gag. If you think this tactic was successful her in the 70's, check out the same gag used in Sister Act 2 just in the 80's and 90's. Joyful, Joyful, we will cry to thee.

Esther said...

Thanks for the comment! True, "Ice Castles" is manipulative, but so aren't most art forms - books, tv, movies, paintings. They're all designed to manipulate our emotions to some extent, to provoke a reaction. And Hollywood movies are more manipulative than most.

For example, the Hugh Grant movie "About a Boy," which I love, has a very sweet, syrupy ending, much different than the gritty, harder-edged ending of the Nick Hornby novel on which it's based.

But getting back to "Ice Castles," I can see how it would resonate for you. It's all about following your dream no matter what, about friends and family helping each other, about envisioning a life beyond your small town or city neighborhood.

And sometimes, you just need a good cry!