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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Swimming for Gold (G) - 91 minutes

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

Overcoming obstacles is the theme of this young person’s comedic drama, which – unfortunately – trawls the bottom of the barrel.

After winning two gold medals at the World Swimming Championships, elite American competitor Claire Carpenter (Peyton List) froze on the blocks, had a blonde moment that went viral and effectively retired from swimming.

Her driven dad Calvin (Martin Dingle Wall) has allowed her some time off, but she has done nothing with it and now he decides to send her to Brisbane for a month to coach a boys’ swim team.

It is there, at a swim camp, that the lads are preparing for the nationals and coach Bodhi (Ray Chong Nee) – a fruit loop – is having trouble motivating them.

He is hoping Carpenter will help give them an edge because anything other than a win for the team will see them lose their major sponsor and the camp will be forced to close.

Problem is Carpenter comes face-to-face with a rival, Mikayla Michaels (Lauren Esposito), who she is unexpectedly forced to room with.

Carpenter isn’t exactly made to feel welcome, even though she is a heroine to one of the fan girls on the girls’ team, Annabelle Shumpert (Olivia Nardini), who is far too effusive.

Without motivation, Carpenter is just going through the motions to see out her time in Oz.

But that all changes when the captain of the boys’ team, Liam Henderson (Daniel Needs) – who has some issues with his pushy parents – confronts her.

If treating children like imbeciles was “the” measure then Swimming for Gold may be regarded as a good movie.

However, as no right-minded person would, let’s just say this is, in large dollops, all but an unmitigated disaster.

Its target audience is young teenage girls and, generally, they are far more intelligent than this movie gives them credit for.

Basically, almost every plot element in the film is dumbed down or hammed up.

“Why?”, I found myself asking.

Surely if a script and direction are good enough the characters don’t have to be exaggerated so they appear more like cardboard cut-outs than real flesh and blood.

The humour, antipathy and warmth should be natural and free flowing, not stage managed to within an inch of its life so it looks and feels like manufactured pap.

You can deliver messages, which Swimming for Gold does, without lowering yourself to the level of amateur theatrics.

Frequently it felt like the filmmakers (writer Eric Bergemann and director Hayley MacFarlane) were trying to deliver a staged panto.

Much of the acting – in fact most of it – appears forced and totally disingenuous.

Even the cut-in shots of a former queen of the pool, Suzie O’Neill, known in her day as “Madame Butterfly”, looked manufactured.

While I freely admit that I am not in the target demographic for this picture, over several decades I have seen and reviewed tween films – along with thousands of others – many of which I have enjoyed.

The keys to the latter have always been a decent script and credibility, neither of which Swimming for Gold has.

In my humble opinion this is not worthy of cinematic release, fundamentally because I didn’t believe the lion’s share of what I was being fed (pun fully intended).

Rated G, it scores a 3 out of 10.


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