Channel Flip! Nutshell: Strange Horizons did fundraising, and as a columnist there I offered to watch ten minutes of anything, and discuss it with as little context as possible.
Which is great, until someone requests The Cutting Edge, aka Taming of the Shrew on Ice.
LAST NOTE of a montage! Close call, everybody. Moira Kelly's ice skating, and some dude is offscreening, "Always difficult."
She throws him this:
Winner and still champion.
He's her ex-coach, here to mess with her head about her new partner. She parries, with a side of How Did You Get In Here that adds flavor. Finally he drops the H word, and it's on. "This HOCKEY PLAYER is the best skater I've been on the ice with. He's going to make you cry he's so good." (I lodge a complaint with the Hyperbole Committee, because I'm sure he's good, but come on.)
Ex-coach smarms away. But what's this? Partner D.B. Sweeney heard it all! "You let me down and I swear it'll take them a month to count the blade marks up your back," she says, which I guess is meant to show she's a difficult hardass princess, but she just sounds like a medal-level athlete. He asks her to remove her engagement ring because it's cutting his hand. SYMBOLISM.
Nationals! Training. Their coach is Russian Accent Gentleman because lovely, thanks movie. She gives Sweeney a rundown of the competitors (favorite: "They cry on command"). He's slightly stunned by its intensity. They're interrupted by her ex-partner, who gives Sweeney a huge wink and skates off, to which they react like so (this film isn't short on faces):
She says, "You'll get used to it," and nothing more is made of it, which could be worse. (Also, I'd make that face, too, if someone's acrimonious ex-collaborator came over to sneer at them and wink at me, so this might not even be gay panic so much as just panic-panic.)
Speaking of panic, ex-partner's-partner, Plotty McSlutshame 1992, appears in the elevator to flirt with clearly-interested Sweeney!
Play the theme from Jaws and you'll have the mood here.
Moira Kelly gets a look at them, then goes up to her room and gets FURIOUS about her missing earring. Boyfriend, like a character ready to exit this movie, suggests she likes him and their skatey fighting is merely "foreplay."
Cut to everyone in a limo, minus boyfriend.
NATIONALS! She's nervous. He's nervous. He's so nervous he barfs! She tries to talk him through it, but he has barfmouth so everything's worse than ever! They're on.
Showtime. They're awesome! Stunt doubles everywhere! Five point eights (remember those?)! But on their way upstairs, Sweeney doesn't get it. What's with the overnight wait? Why not just do both? It drags it out, is all, you know? "Foreplay!" he finishes, and I time out on this face:
What It All Means, I Bet: I've seen this movie many times. It has no secrets from me now. Trust that we have stumbled across the blessed ten minutes of this movie in which she is not supposed to take any shit.
The thing is, the movie presents a heroine who has clearly become a stone bitch to deal with an impossibly-competitive subculture and a jerk dad and a coach PAID to be her secondary jerk dad, and she's too smart to buy into the subculture stuff but in too deep to get out without feeling like she gave up. She's rude and sharp, and has trouble with relationships, but is also painfully isolated. This is all textual. Characters who are not her discuss it as given.
Which makes it even weirder that it's also textual that its hero Doesn't Fit In, and reacts by trying repeatedly to take her down a peg, played for laughs. And it's not necessary - many of their snipefests are evenly matched without the need for humiliation, and shows them both as flawed people, instead of 'Guy Tries to 'Loosen Up' Lady Whose Biggest Problem is Being Professionally Driven And/Or Interested in Things Other Than Guy,' which is where we somehow end up.
We also get moments like the short program up there, where they're able to work together well, and you sort of expect them to either just stay partners and work it out. It almost gets there! But at some point the crushes start and then it's just a big pile of Americana and ice-skating montages and him insulting her so badly she decides to retire so then HE feels hurt about it but then they do the Pamchenko twist and break every law of physics and it's fine, love prevails, the end! Unhealthy Relationships: The Movie!
It's not all as bad as it could be - when she gets drunk and admits feelings, he, equally drunk, declines to get physical because they're compromised. (He immediately sleeps with Plotcakes McGee, and when Moira Kelly sees it, he chases after her to scream at her about it. This isn't healthy, you guys. None of this is healthy.)
I actually support the arc of retirement - if someone's in a place where they're unhappy, then by all means get out! Find cool friends! Dial your stress down to 11 so you can enjoy ice cream and hiking or whatever! However, where she goes is Straight Into Arms of Guy Who Was Kind of an Asshole for the Last 90 Minutes, and I'm not sure that's as happy an ending as we're supposed to think it is.
That said, it skewered the skating subculture pretty handily, giving us the line, "It looks like she got caught in his lederhosen," which is reason enough for a movie to exist.