On Edge Review
With the release of last year’s A Mighty Wind, it was established once and for all that if there is room for one maker of pastiche documentary (I hate the word ‘mockumentary’ with a passion), then it has to be reserved for Christopher Guest. That film demonstrated all his comic skills but also showed that he was capable of using the form to explore considerably wider emotional territory. Most other examples of the sub-genre are scribbling in the margin compared to Guest’s movies and only the surprisingly edgy Drop Dead Gorgeous has demonstrated anything even remotely like the stylistic depth of a Spinal Tap. Consequently, Karl Slovin, director of On Edge, has set a very difficult task for himself in trying to compete and he’s hobbled himself by basing his faux-documentary in the world of competitive ice skating; a subject which I, and I suspect most of you reading this, know virtually nothing about. Needless to say, we’re not talking about the ice equivalent of Best In Show, but it says quite a lot for Slovin’s film that it’s rarely less than pleasant and sometimes raises a smile or two.
What’s surprising about the movie is that it seems to follow the template of Drop Dead Gorgeous right down to the class conflict between snobby rich girl and trailer trash hopeful. However, the sharp wit and eye for absurdist comedy that made that film more amusing than expected have not been replicated here. There’s nothing, for example, to match the astonishingly and triumphantly blasphemous sight of beauty queen wannabe Denise Richards dancing with a statue of Christ on castors. Instead, we get an awful lot of rather badly timed slapstick – people falling over on the ice mostly – and the stream of bad taste gags in Drop Dead Gorgeous about paedophiles, Christians, the mentally ill and alcoholism have been replaced by toothless jibes about fat people and anorexics. However, the structure of the films is amazingly similar – we get a local ice skating contest during which we follow a small group of hopefuls and their parents and coaches, followed by a regional final in which nothing goes as planned. The parents turn out to be control freaks or walking personality disorders and it’s topped off with a cynical commentary from an on-looker – in this case Jason Alexander playing a caretaker at the ice rink belong to a former Russian Gold medallist played by the splendid John Glover. There’s even a happy ending which is almost exactly identical to the one in the earlier film.
What makes On Edge enjoyable to watch, however, are the winning performances from the young cast. As the good-hearted trailer trash competitor JC, A.J.Langer, gives a nicely shaded performance which never goes over the top. In the rather broadly written role of Veda, the literal ‘ice queen’, Barret Swateck is totally convincing. As Wendy, the fat girl who is bound to make you feel protective, Marissa Jaret Winokur is very funny and manages to act irritating without being irritating, if you see what I mean.
The feelgood aspects of the film work reasonably well in a very clichéd manner – if you don’t guess the winner of the contest at the beginning then you really need to pay more attention to what you’re watching. The more acidic attempts at humour usually don’t come off because they feel too half-hearted as if Slovin has one eye on the reaction of the ice-skating community. However, what I did like a great deal (although judging by the reaction of other reviewers I seem to be alone in this) was the performance of real life ice star Scott Hamilton as a quite spectacularly camp senior judge. Going way over the top, he asserts increasingly unlikely things about ice skating including the assertion that every Olympic ice skating champion is a virgin . Although this is completely gratuitous and not integrated too well into the rest of the film, it has a surreal craziness which I found very appealing and I would have liked a lot more of it. In these all too brief scenes, Slovin has found something zany and original and it’s a quality which On Edge could have used elsewhere. It’s sweet and likeable but five minutes after it’s finished you’re likely to have forgotten most of what you’ve just watched.
Visually, the disc is quite impressive. It’s presented in both an open-matte fullscreen version and a widescreen version matted to 1.85:1. Both offer a sharp, clear picture without any significant problems apart from a TV-Movie style flatness which is probably the fault of the cinematographer. Colours seem a little washed out but there’s nothing here to seriously complain about. The soundtrack is similarly competent, being a straight 2 channel Stereo mix which uses the front channels quite effectively for dialogue.
This is a minor release from MGM so, naturally, it’s not exactly a feature packed special edition. We get some brief interviews from the three leading actresses and two extended scenes, one of them with the aforementioned which is more of the same and either very funny or painful according to personal taste. I would have liked a commentary because the commentary tracks of first time directors are often very revealing about their approach to their first big chance. Subtitles are offered for the film but not for the extra features.
On Edge is a very unimportant but pleasant and occasionally funny film which whiles away 90 minutes quite painlessly. The DVD presentation is entirely acceptable.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 12:16:17