Fans of Hayward Field and Eugene Will Appreciate Alexi Pappas' Film
A Quick Film Review
With the post-Olympic hype of this past weekend's Prefontaine Classic at Eugene, Oregon's Hayward Field, I was inspired to check out a little independent film from a few years ago, also based there: Tracktown, titled after the town's well-earned nickname.
So, a story on a young athlete in Eugene with big running ambitions would seem to benefit from Pappas' sports experience. She's admitted that the script has elements of her own life, and those of other runners.
Therein lies a strength of the film. Bits of what feels like an insider's look at what it means to be an elite runner appear as Pappas' elite collegiate runner character Plum Madison competes at the trials. The impact of a youth spent running - effects on a changing body, self-consciousness of having a runner's build, missing out on 'typical' teen activities and more - is pointedly included in a way that feels fresh and revelatory.
Unfortunately, those moments are too few to carry the film beyond a lightweight romance, and a maybe romance at that. The main storyline: Madison has an unexpected layoff from training in between rounds at the trials, which forces her to use this newly found time to contemplate life she's missed out. So, she tries to deal with a (too?) supportive father, a separated mother, and budding feelings for the cute cafe worker. But Madison has a depth of naivete from her running shelter that inhibit her new found freedom. And at times that innocence strains credulity. Some of that does stem from Pappas' natural waif-like expressiveness, and I suppose, as a decidedly non-elite athlete myself, I have distance from that reality. In the end, one isn't really sure where she lands in her thoughts or her relationships once she finally reaches the next race. Those storylines don't seem as confidently resolved as could be.
Eugene does look good. 'Tracktown USA' comes off as the bucolic college-town in the shadow of track & field gravitas that it is. And, Tracktown does offer a bonus in a cameo (twice!) by retired U.S. running star Nick Symmonds. So, between that and support for Pappas' own athletic career, track fans may certainly feel the film is well worth it.