By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Lucy Walker has about as varied a set of interests of any documentary filmmaker out there. From the misbehaving Amish youths on rumspringa of The Devil’s Playground to the Brazilian garbage dump artists of Waste Land to the aftermath of Japan’s tsunami in The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, the only common thread in her work is a fascination of what makes people tick.
The Crash Reel brings her eye to bear on the youth of the extreme sports world. Originally a decade-plus profile of Kevin Pearce, the one snowboarder who may have what it takes to break Shaun White’s streak of Olympic domination, the film becomes something else when Kevin suffers massive brain trauma in a training accident. Now he must come to terms with the man he is now… a man who may never snowboard competitively again.
Twice-nominated Walker is one of the best in the business, and the way she opens this film, introducing us to and making us like Kevin and his friends, then pulling no punches in showing his accident, followed by a heartwarming title sequence with a perfect song choice, all in a matter of minutes, shows her incredible skill.
And hits you like Thor’s hammer upside your skull
What follows is not just a portrait of a young man struggling in a difficult place, or his loving family and friends who try all they can to help him through. It’s also a call to arms to find ways to make a series of sports that are by their very nature death-defying safer in any way possible. The margin between victory and death or incredibly serious damage is razor-thin, and this film helps pull back the curtain to let us see the too-high cost behind the glory.
Also, you must raise your glass to Kevin himself, a young man finding a much more difficult bravery within himself.
Even (especially?) if he kinda looks like Napoleon Dynamite
Shaun White character assassination much? Maybe the guy is a huge dick (after being groomed for fame since childhood, it’d be more of a surprise if he wasn’t), but don’t use his interviews to help sell your film and simultaneously throw him under the bus.
Using these super-precious videos of tiny ginger child him is bad enough
Perhaps it’s the last point, but there are shades of manipulation here that are more felt than concrete (not in the case of his brother with Downs Syndrome- actually one of the strongest parts of the film). Maybe Walker’s a tad more intrusive than seems proper at times, or she’s just wringing the maximum emotional input out of things, but it’s fairly unsettling.
While The Crash Reel can feel a tad overbearing at times, it’s nonetheless a must-see documentary, if only to enact some change in a sport that is much more dangerous than it should be.
Take a Drink: it’s home movie time!
Take a Drink: for onscreen scribble writing
Do a Shot: for the actual Crash Reel
Do a Shot: hahaha, it’s a tiny Shaun White!