There are certain films that, when seen at a young age, make a lasting impression that might cloud one’s memory of whether or not the film is actually good, leading to the question of whether the movie was actually good, or if you were simply young and impressionable.
“The Cutting Edge” is very, very good.
In an era where, after a drought of romantic comedies being made for theatrical release, the enduring genre is getting slightly revitalized by Netflix and other platforms, it’s delightful to look back at the 1992 tale of Kate (Moira Kelly) and Doug (D.B. Sweeney), two aspiring Olympians who team up for the pairs figure skating championship. It’s a sports movie that also borrows from Shakespeare (as might be guessed by the use of the name Kate), resetting “The Taming of the Shrew” inside the private ice rink where headstrong Kate butts heads with Doug, a former hockey player who refuses to take Kate’s shit.
It’s true that “The Cutting Edge” suffers a bit from the latent misogyny of the narrative to which it pays homage — but Kelly’s spunky energy in the role elevates her characterization above what might be categorized as “bitchy”; not afraid to be unlikeable, Kelly also manages to bring out Kate’s inner vulnerabilities, making her one of the most complex and interesting heroines of the genre.
Sweeney, meanwhile, is the perfect rogue with a heart of gold; initially agreeing to partner Kate for the paycheck provided by her rich father (an always welcome and delightful Terry O’Quinn, who has not aged), his skepticism about the artistic and athletic demands of figure skating make for a perfect intro to this world — and his later embrace of the sport serves as a perfect compliment to his also-growing affection for Kate. Their chemistry is perfectly calibrated over the course of the film, playing with the extremes of love and hate in ways that range from truly romantic to truly hilarious.
Is it a perfect movie? Well, the budgetary restrictions stand out, especially when it comes to showing the actual figure skating sequences — the “whoosh”-y blurring of the routines does a nice job of disguising the fact that Sweeney and Kelly are not, in real life, professional figure skaters, but also ensures that the viewer can barely tell what’s actually happening on the ice. (That said, while a 21st century remake would likely use CGI to map their faces onto body doubles, there’s charm still to the low budget approach.)
But the dialogue sings, the direction is clean, and there are nearly countless moments that still stand out as iconic today. Like other classics of the genre, there are misunderstandings and romantic rivals and other obstacles to the path of true love, but especially for a PG-rated film, this is an adult romance about two complicated people who might not be perfect, but end up being perfect for each other.
“Toe pick,” forever and ever, amen.
“The Cutting Edge” is streaming now on Hulu.