cafe mama

entering the mind of the married mom

A review of "The GoodLot", a cute movie about track, pubs and Portland - March 29, 2004

This weekend was the "world premiere" of The GoodLot, a movie written by a co-track coach at Cleveland, Brian Wright, and shown at my favorite local movie theatre, The Clinton Street. It's a story about a 1500-meter runner who returns to racing after a 15-year hiatus to make an attempt at the Olympics. Attending the movie meant the happy confluence of supporting two friends (theatre owner and writer) so I couldn't miss it.

The movie takes place in Portland, Oregon but is very Brit-centric; the main characters' best friends are British, and one of them lives in a Mini Cooper. It makes no apologies for its small-budget independent film status, and as such, probably won't win any Sundance Festival awards. My verdict...

As I watched the film, I went from being absolutely underwhelmed (the sound quality in the opening shot, of a friend of the main character frying his breakfast and talking on the phone, was unnervingly amateur) to a little charmed, then to peeved, and to satisfied by the ending. If only the middle had such an effect! The main character is an immature sh/t, and when he sewers his relationships with *both* the women in his life, he does it with such a total lack of class and self-awareness, I wanted to throttle him. But, of course, he makes up, and makes good, by the end. And he is so Portland! He lives in an old 4-square turn-of-the-century house, like me and all my friends; he takes the Max to work; he runs across the same bridges and up the same hills that me and all my (runner) friends run across and up.

The film's audience will most likely be mostly runners who have lived in Portland. This may seem a little limiting; but with the way Portland churns out runners, it may be an o.k. audience for such a little film. Runners will relate, but those who aren't, probably won't. The film is packed with running and runner inside jokes and runner vocabulary, with lots of shots of doing laps around the Madison High School track and running the same mile-long route under the Macadam bridge that so many of us bikers and runners recognize. Runners who have run these routes before might be inspired, and will feed off the low-key, sweetly competitive energy of the title character and his friends. As long as they forget these boys are supposed to be in their mid-30s; they would make lovely 24-year-olds.

Unfortunately, the story is a bit far-fetched. I may believe that a runner from Portland could qualify for the Olympics; sure, several have in the past. But there are too many details that belong in the stout-beer-fueled imagination of a pubcrawler. The main character's chief rival is a smarmy runner who he has been running against since high school and, in one scene, pulls out his Olympic medal to prove to a woman at a bar that HE is a "winner." Umm-hmm. They race a "midnight mile," in which the competitors chug a beer between each lap. I can believe that given some of my husband's antics, but not that all the girls are so supportive of the effort, cheering and carting beer for these boorish guys. And I can't believe that anyone over 20 would be such an idiot about women (the main character) - in one scene, he gets upset that his girlfriend asks about his past relationship, and tells her, *twice*, that her artsy photography is "dumb" or "silly" or somesuch. Ummm...men make that mistake ONCE maybe. She forgives him WAY too easily. The whole relationship with the coach is a little weird, too...she seems to be drawn as a mature-but-weak 30-something but...why did she leave abruptly without any notice in college and then suddenly appear 15 years later? The length of the absence, and the reason for leaving, is never satisfactorily explained. And let's face it, the woman who plays the coach has some awful dialogue, and delivers it woodenly.

The movie has some cute parts, and it makes me want to run, and run much faster than the Olympic hopeful does in most of the movie. I would recommend it to Portland runners and/or Anglophiles in their early 20s. However, I so wish that the dialogue was more realistic. It would change from odd to intelligent with a lot of editing. Maybe I've just been too spoiled by David Mamet...