'Tracktown': LAFF Review

Tracktown Still - Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of LA Film Festival

Tracktown Still - Publicity - H 2016

A winning, winsome comedy.

Co-director/writer and lead Alexi Pappas makes for an endearing triple-threat in this underdog audience-pleaser.

While Olympic Trials don’t usually tend to be the sort of milieu that readily lend themselves to quirky comedy, the engagingly amusing Tracktown quite capably goes the distance.

Handed its world premiere at the LA Film Festival, the sweet indie, about a driven young competitive runner who is forced to take a rare day off, serves as a sparkling showcase for endearing lead Alexi Pappas, who also splits directing and writing duties with Jeremy Teicher.

Pappas, herself a long-distance runner who will be competing for Greece in the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, plays the role of Plumb Marigold, a 21-year-old hopeful who has devoted most of her Eugene, Oregon, existence to living the track and field dream.

Spurred on by her similarly obsessed dad (Andy Buckley) and boatloads of quotable affirmations running the gamut from Oprah to Dr. Seuss, Plumb is unmistakably in it to win it, but after twisting her ankle in the middle of her first Olympic Trials, she’s ordered to take a 24-hour break from her strict regime.

In the process, Plumb briefly gets a taste of the “normal” life she has never known, including pursuing her flirtation with Sawyer (Chase Offerle), the young man who works in the local bakery and finally dealing with her emotionally fragile mother (Rachel Dratch), who now lives with Plumb’s grandparents.

Although there’s a telltale Juno vibe to the tone of the film, it’s easy to root for this disciplined but naive “girl-child,” especially as portrayed by Pappas, herself a hard-to-resist blend of Audrey Hepburn and Joan Cusack.

The supporting performances are uniformly appealing while, behind the camera, Pappas’ intense familiarity with the environment is strongly established with various endurance training sequences and daily regimens involving large quantities of protein powder and raw eggs.

But while Pappas and her writing and directing partner Teicher, who previously directed the 2012 African drama Tall as the Baobab Tree, demonstrate a keen eye and ear for local color, it will be interesting to see where they travel next, beyond the familiarity of this evident comfort zone.

Venue: LA Film Festival (US Fiction Competition)
Production companies: Bay Bridge Productions, Bunkhouse Films, Good Wizard
Cast: Alexi Pappas, Rachel Dratch, Rebecca Friday, Chase Offerle, Andy Buckley
Directors-screenwriters: Jeremy Teicher, Alexi Pappas
Producers: Laura Wagner, Jay Smith, Alexi Pappas, Jeremy Teicher
Executive producers: John Legere, Chris Bender, Cassandra Siegel, Stephen Siegel, Dan Giustina, Jon Anderson, Terri Anderson, Todd Remis, Robert Campbell
Director of photography: Chris Collins
Costume designer: Kate Smith
Editor: Sofi Marshall
Composer: Jay Wadley
Casting director: Simon Max Hill
Sales: Preferred Content

Not rated, 87 minutes