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Ice Castles (2010)

Dreams are all a small-town Iowa native has for something that has been within her grasp for years, but at the same time, just out of reach. Possessing the raw talent of a champion figure skater, all Alexis Winston (Taylor Firth) has to nurture her love of the sport is a small pond near her rural home – that she shares with her windowed father (Henry Czerny) and an aunt who encourages her to enter s nearby competition. Choreographing a simplistic program in need of polishing, Lexi doesn’t place instead she catches the eye of an Olympic champion looking for his next superstar. Aiden (Morgan Kelly) believes Lexi can go places with the proper training. So regardless of her misgivings, not the least of which is her reservation over leaving behind boyfriend Nick (Rob Mayes) whom she rarely sees as it is, Lexi leaves behind her small-town charms for the big city of Boston.  

Creating a stir that piques a media buzz storm Lexi becomes the new "it girl" of female figure skating. Life becomes a maze of photo shoots, press conferences, and interviews, in addition to every waking moment spent pushing herself further than she has ever gone with her training sessions, leaving little to no time for fostering relationships. A moment of misery and homesickness finds Lexi leaving a posh after party to clear her head and go skating on a small pond – a decision that leaves her dreams shattered.

Anticipating the 2010 Winter Olympics found studios promoting skating telefilms, and four years later I was again inspired to rewatch this revision of the 1978 classic (which became an Oscar-nominee) – seems appropriate given the Olympics of 2014 begin today. Not knowing all the details about the former I’ve no idea how the differences vary though this latest is a dazzling joy to watch with interesting, profound messages of faith and love. The cast consists of two professional skaters, the star, and in a less prominent role, a professional who plays Lexi’s rival. With the casting of Taylor Firth the skating sequences were given a sense of beautiful realism, unlike former motion pictures that have tried to achieve this effect. Everything about them, from the atmosphere to the actual filming just radiates artistry; instead of fictionalized imitations we are treated to as authentic competitions as can be with beautiful and athletic grace. Sure, there are moments where slow-motion filming emphasizes drama, but for the most part, these sequences are impressively done. Even scenes that aren’t competitive venues are well edited, structured and emotional.

One would assume that by choosing people whose lives have revolved around this sport, the emotional acting side of the production would suffer therefore making the casting of actors in these roles “better” as opposed to selecting someone who knows just what this sport takes. That is not the case with this leading lady. Taylor does a marvelous job. Being her first ever acting gig, one would question her abilities, but she shines in the role of Lexi; her innocent, bubbly manners make Lexi an extremely likable and vulnerable character. What surprised me the most is this story going against type by not creating a character that drastically changed along with her circumstances. Preferably she remained the same “grounded” girl who remembered that she came from humble beginnings. Rob Mayes wasn’t a familiar name, either, but his Nick is just as wonderful - I respected and appreciated how his character reacted to Lexi, that he never gave up on her and more importantly he didn't let her give up. Their latter scenes together are heartbreaking and full of healing in equal measures. In what is probably an unusual occurrence, some of the same people are back for the remake as the original, one of whom being the same director, Donald Wrye. The script is a sweet story that isn’t without deeper, more thought-provoking elements, some of which were unexpected (like the would-be jerk character actually having feelings and caring).  

The costumes and choreography were so lovely that even the dramatic make-up jobs couldn’t take away from it. Something about the production just sparkles, from the acting to the scenery, everything was breathtaking. There are heartbreaking moments that leave you wanting to cry but often transcend into instant instances of beautiful artistry. Of course, offsetting the tension are appropriate bouts of humor then there is the soundtrack prominently made up of catchy pop tunes that mostly belong to the then-newcomer Britt Nicole, a Christian artist, and something I rather enjoyed about the film. She was also elected to sing the contemporary version of the award-winning song “Through the Eyes of Love,” in a memorable vocal performance.

Ice Castles is one skate not to be missed; it’s really a winning score with so many emotional stimulates from the cast (all of the good kind) that it is viewed as nothing less than a bright spot of sweet sunshine on a winter day.   

Speaking of the Olympics, just for fun, which sport or athlete are you most excited to follow? 

(Parental review, rating PG: reacting to her accident, Lexi lashes out at those who love her most when adjusting to her handicap; there’s one instance of a “dramatic” scene with her father. Young loves kiss and roll around in the snow. Lexi becomes involved with her coach for a brief time, although there is nothing beyond kissing.)
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  1. Cute review. I've been meaning to watch this one.

  2. Thanks for reviewing this, Rissi!
    I have wanted to watch it for a while but didn't know if this was any good.

    1. My pleasure, Ella! I watched this one years ago and recently re-watched it thanks to the Olympic hype. :) It's really sweet if you like this kind of movie and one I don't mind watching now and again.

  3. I LOVE this movie!! Especially the ending. ;)

    1. Me, too, Kellie. It's SO sweet. Not sure why I don't watch it more often. :)

  4. You've made me want to do a rewatch. I like this one better than the original....just for the record ;)

  5. And I'm also bummed I can't find that final song anywhere!!

    1. Good to know, Ella. I suspect given my track record with other old vs. new titles, I'd also prefer this one. It's just SO cute. :)

      ...really?! That is a bummer. I love that song and the fact that Britt Nicole recorded the new version makes it all the more sad. Let me know if you ever find it.

  6. I haven't heard of this one, but now I'm going to have to find it to watch. Fabulous review! :)

    1. It's super cute, Tressa. Hope you enjoy it if/when you see it. Thanks for reading! :)

  7. This is a good one. I re-watched it last summer, and still enjoyed it the second time around. I saw the original probably 10 or 15 years ago, so it's not real fresh in my mind... something that really stands out about it was that Marilla from Anne of Green Gables was in it. Anyway, I'm quite sure I like the remake better. The original (from what I remember, anyway) had more of a somber tone, and the remake is more light and feel good.

    I almost always prefer remakes to the originals. Maybe because it just kind of updates things, bringing them into the current era so they are more easy to relate to. I do think, however, that I liked the original of Footloose better than the remake. But, that's getting way off topic.

    Anyway, Ice Castles is definitely a good one. And it does have a great soundtrack! :)

    1. This was just my second-time through, Valerie though my reaction was the same as you; it was quite good and still very enjoyable. Really, Marilla was in the original? That's cool. I'll have to rent it just for the fact of seeing her in something else.

      Ditto. Usually I much prefer the remakes over their original - probably for the same reasons you state. I did love the remake of Footloose though. It. Was. So. Fun. (Not sure if I rented the original then or not... clearly, my memory is going. ;D)

      This movie is a good un. I love that there are beautiful moments even with the somber topic and YES, the music is wonderful. Of course, it helps that I was already fond of Britt Nicole's music.


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