Photograph: Peter Iovino/Buena Vista/Kobal/Shutterstock

After I was in center college, two films dominated my mind: Twilight and Stick It, each of which I had digital copies of on my iPod. They had been the one two films on the machine, and I’d watch them again and again once I was purported to be doing homework. The previous wants no introduction, however Stick It, the 2006 teen gymnastics film, doesn’t have a lot of a cultural footprint. However when Simone Biles, essentially the most adorned feminine gymnast of all time, pulled out of a number of Olympic occasions, I instantly considered Stick It. Not solely is it one of many few mainstream films about gymnastics, but it surely tackles a part of what Biles was coping with: the extraordinary psychological toll the game can take. It’s a film a couple of naturally gifted gymnast who rebels in opposition to the rigidity and harshness of a sport they love that usually doesn’t love them again.

Texas teen Haley (Missy Peregrym) does BMX tips in deserted swimming pools, hangs out with boys, and wears dishevelled hoodies and males’s denims. When she will get arrested for property injury, the choose offers her a singular sentence particularly designed to make Haley squirm: elite-gymnastics coaching. Earlier than she began dressing like Jesse Pinkman, Haley was one of many highest-ranked gymnasts within the nation — till she walked out proper earlier than the ultimate occasion at a serious championship, rendering her an enemy within the eyes of her fellow gymnasts. Nevertheless it’s both gymnastics or juvie (if solely all teenagers charged with crimes got such an choice), so she chooses the literal blood, sweat, and tears of coaching with has-been coach Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges as a traditional strict coach with a coronary heart of gold).

Haley has plenty of complaints concerning the sport of gymnastics. It hurts her physique in 100 alternative ways. The judging is simply too subjective. The little dance strikes are embarrassing. However her greatest gripe is the best way the game makes dad and mom and adults disregard what’s finest for the teenagers’ psychological and bodily well being. Haley, as it’s revealed midway by way of the movie, stop in the course of the massive championship as a result of she discovered, proper earlier than her closing routine, that her mother was sleeping along with her coach, which led to her dad and mom’ divorce. Haley witnesses loads of different shitty parenting from the overbearing mothers at Vickerman’s fitness center. She doesn’t really hate the act of gymnastics in any case — she simply hates what it does to individuals.

The crescendo of Stick It comes towards the tip when Haley and her teammates are at a nationwide championship. When Haley’s teammate pulls off what seems to be an ideal vault routine however nonetheless receives a deduction from the judges — as a result of her bra strap was exhibiting — Haley decides she’s had sufficient. She doesn’t wish to let the rigidity of the game overtake her love for it, so she does an exaggerated reveal of her personal bra strap mid-routine. What follows is a slew of different gymnasts doing the identical, forgoing a routine to let the wronged gymnast win. All through the remainder of the competitors, the gymnasts come collectively to decide on their very own winners, as an alternative of getting the game’s Institution achieve this. It’s the gymnastics equal of employee solidarity.

It could be a disservice to Stick It, although, to consider it as worthy just for its acrobatic rise up. It’s additionally humorous, charming, and ingenious. A religious cousin to cheerleading traditional Convey It On, that film’s screenwriter, Jessica Bendinger, additionally wrote and directed Stick It. (Bendinger belongs to a category of feminine writers and administrators from a sure period by which their expertise and success in some way didn’t translate into alternatives to make extra films; she hasn’t made one other movie since Stick It.)

As a filmmaker, Bendinger leans into the small print. When Haley’s BMX mates go to, they take the gymnasts to the mall, the place they act like cult-escapees who’ve by no means seen such abundance — performing acrobatics in department-store promenade attire, pouring jelly beans from a sweet dispenser instantly into their mouths. In a single competitors scene, set to the Electrical Six track “Dance Commander,” the gymnasts’ tips throughout every occasion are layered over each other like a collage or mirrored like a kaleidoscope. Haley’s fellow gymnast Wei Wei (Nikki SooHoo) engages in her personal rise up by performing a hip-hop beam routine to K7’s “Come Baby Come,” executing a headspin and the worm on the slender equipment. It makes you marvel what the game may very well be, and whom it might make area for, if the principles weren’t so slender.

The soundtrack (additionally on my middle-school iPod) is such an integral a part of the movie that it will possibly really feel, in one of the best ways, like a group of gymnastics-themed music movies. In reality, the music video for Missy Elliott’s “We Run This,” additionally featured in Stick It, incorporates clips and actors from the film in addition to Dominique Dawes, the primary Black girl to win a gold medal in Olympic gymnastics.

The movie has the power of an unbiased film, with a solid that options no massive names, save for Bridges, who’s enjoyably out of his aspect in tracksuits and sport polos. Bendinger mentioned in a recent interview that she solid Bridges based mostly on a suggestion from her psychic. One of the best traces come from Haley’s nemesis turned buddy, Joanne (Vanessa Lengies), who’s hilariously bitchy and dumb, like when she confuses a GED and a DUI or when she tells Vickerman to not try a backflip as a result of he’ll have a “cardiovasectomy.” When Haley tells her to cease being nasty, Joanne delivers the actually iconic line “It’s not called gym-nice-stics.”

Gymnastics is a fantastic and brutal sport. It calls for a lot of the athletes’ our bodies, whereas additionally asking the ladies to look fairly and swish. Its guidelines don’t depart a lot room for innovation or change. Reflecting on the Nice Bra-Strap Rise up on the finish of the movie, Haley realizes that she’s within the sport for herself and never anybody else: “I couldn’t look back and think it was about the judges or the parents or the coaches at all. It was about us. And for us.” After withdrawing from most of her occasions, and taking the week off to emotionally and bodily get better, Biles returned to the Olympics to win the bronze medal, a feat as nice as the rest she has completed. “I didn’t really care about the outcome,” Biles mentioned. “I was so happy that I made the routine and that I got to compete one more time.”


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