This amiable sports drama may feature some of the hallmarks of the genre — training, isolation and competition — but its twee tone sets it apart from the pack. Co-directed, co-written and starring real-life Olympic runner Alexi Pappas, "Tracktown" feels utterly authentic and earnest, even if the latter quality may serve as a turn-off to the more cynical in the audience.
Plumb Marigold (Pappas), a resident of Eugene, Ore., is just days away from the finals for the Olympic trials when an injury forces the normally dedicated runner to take time off. Though she struggles to sit still in the running-obsessed town, Plumb spends her rest day alternately with her supportive dad (Andy Buckley), absent mother (Rachel Dratch), friend Whitney (Rebecca Friday) and her crush from the local bakery, Sawyer (Chase Offerle).
While the rest of us are sitting on our couches, Pappas is an Olympian, director, screenwriter and actor before the age of 30. Having a real runner makes the movie feel truer, even if she lacks the training and experience of a more seasoned actor. As Plumb, Pappas is awkward but likable in the lead role, and her gawky charm works well with the film's quirky approach to its story. She and co-director and co-writer Jeremy Teicher have created a funny, sweet movie that explores the struggles of a serious athlete without alienating those whose sneakers are gathering dust in the closet.
Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica, Santa Monica