Wind [retro review]

“We’re out in the desert, so bring some beer!”

The Scoop: 1992 PG-13, directed by Carroll Ballard and starring Matthew Modine, Jennifer Grey, and Stellan Skarsgård

Tagline: The only thing better than winning the America’s Cup is losing it… and winning it back.

Summary Capsule: Will must win the Americas Cup, or die trying. Well, not really. But doesn’t that sound exciting?

Lissa’s Rating: No one puts Baby in a corner! Even on a boat.

Lissa’s Review: Ah, HD Cable TV, and all the channels and movies that come with it. Like most members of his gender, Duckie really wanted this particular feature when we moved in. Me, I didn’t particularly care at first because I’m not much of a TV watcher, but I have to admit the movies have won me over. Even when we end up watching something like Naked or Sorority Boys (At least they were both free, which is more than can be said than for going to the video store.), I appreciate this feature. The only problem is that every now and then, Duckie gets into one of his flashback modes where he’s decided he wants to see some movie from his youth, and being utterly shocked that I haven’t seen it (given that I’m six years younger), decides it must be inflicted upon me as well. Normally, the line afterwards is “that isn’t as good as I remembered it to be.” (See my reviews for Surviving the Game and 1941.) Wind, on the other hand, which was billed in the same manner, actually turned out to be decent. In fact, it was better than what Duckie billed it as.

Wind is the story of Will Parker, played by Matthew Modine of Gross Anatomy and Memphis Belle fame. He races sailboats, and naturally, lost the big race — in this case to the Australians. Now, for some reason I forget because this review’s been in progress almost as long as my Ghost Dog review was, he decides to come back and win back the day and the Americas Cup. To do that, he needs his ex-girlfriend, who is an engineer and can help him design his boat and sails, as well as help him crew the ship. Of course, she’s shacked up with another guy. And naturally, he needs money to make this all happen, and goes to his former boss’s daughter for that. Wacky hijinks would be expected to ensue.

It’s a sports movie, and therefore a mass of clichés in many ways. I mean, all sports movies have the underdog hero who overcomes great odds to win the whatever, right? Well, at least this time it’s a different sport: the sport of sailing. Whatever else I may say, I’ve gotta give Wind credit — there aren’t exactly tons of movies about the sport of sailing. That’s at least different. But I was expecting the standard sports story. I got it… with a couple of twists.

Sure, there were the obligatory montages (three of them — a training montage, a building montage, and a competition montage). To save you the suspense, the good guy won against the odds, capitalizing on his brain and some new and innovative ideas that no one in the sport had ever tried before. And the bad guy (who wasn’t really meant to be all that villainesque) pretty much threw down his hat and shouted “curses! Darn you kids!” (Because, of course, the hero was much younger than the bad guy. Sports heroes should generally be much older or much younger than their nemesis, unless it’s a comeback story.) And there was plenty of sports-related terminology, which was actually kind of annoying, because I know nothing about sailing. But on the other hand, it was good.

I think one of the things that out-and-out surprised me was Jennifer Grey’s role as Kate Bass. Let’s face it, Hollywood is a pretty sexist place. Sure, there are some strong female characters, but generally, the female love interest in these sorts of flicks saves the day by “believing” in the man. That’s all very well and good, but Kate actually is important to the inevitable victory — something Will finally gets through his head. And she’s not pivotal by supporting her man or by believing in him when things get rough, but by using her brain. Whoohoo! Of course, that might be part of why this was never a major hit, but let’s not be too cynical here. (And unlike the concept of Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist, I can believe Jennifer Grey as an aeronautical engineer.) So from a feminist angle, I was delighted by Wind.

But beyond liking Kate, I actually really enjoyed the movie itself. The dialogue was decent, dipping only occasionally into the utterly cheesy. In fact, there was some pretty good banter, especially from Kate’s new flame. The acting was solid enough — nothing to win Oscars, but nothing to mock. The movie itself was actually quite beautiful, especially the shots on the ocean. I got some good laughs, and I was genuinely rooting for Will to win back the Cup, and the “bad guys” weren’t so over the top as to be utterly unbelievable.

As I mentioned earlier, this review has been in progress for ages. The truth is, when Duckie first made me watch Wind, I went in to it totally prepared to mock it. And I can’t. I actually enjoyed the movie, and that kind of left me dry on the inspiration front. So take that as a good sign, and go rent this one. It’s not perfect, but it’s fun.

“Is this a boat for ANTS?”

Intermission!

  • Jennifer Grey’s nose? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
  • In many shots the film skippers (Will, Morgan and Jack) can be seen driving the boats from the leeward side while beating to windward. In reality, most of the time skippers drive their boats from the windward side, mostly to help keep the weight on the windward side and also to give themselves a better view of the incoming waves so they can steer a proper course around them. The reason for putting the film skippers on the leeward side was so that the real sailors could control the boat from the windward wheel while remaining mostly out of shot (you can see their legs occasionally in some scenes.)
  • The television commentator who calls the two America’s Cup matches and the International 14 Championships is Peter Montgomery, famous in the yachting world as the Voice of the America’s Cup. Montgomery is an actual yachting commentator for all major yachting events around the world, as well as a well known broadcaster in New Zealand who covers all the yachting events as well as a good deal of Rugby and Cricket.
  • The yachting sections and storyline of the movie are loosely based on the story of real life sailor and America’s Cup skipper Dennis Conner, who caused national embarrassment in 1983 by losing the America’s Cup to the Australians.
  • The America’s Cup is the most famous and most prestigious regatta in the sport of sailing, and the oldest active trophy in international sport. Although the most salient aspect of the regatta is its yacht races, it is also a test of boat design, sail design, fundraising, and managing people. The cup, originally offered as the Royal Yacht Squadron cup, is now named after the first yacht to win the trophy, the schooner America. In 1983 the Cup was won by the challenger, Australia II of Australia, ending the longest winning streak in the history of sport. For the first time in 132 years, America had lost the “cup” to another country.

Groovy Quotes

Joe: Well, don’t worry about it. I mean, what could happen? Of course, my design could have a few flaws. And after a few weeks, Will and I discover we hate each other. Abigail proves to be the flake of the century; she can’t raise a dime. A giant sandstorm comes along, knocks this place over, we go broke, the IRS throws us in jail. The State Department wants to throw me out of the country. But I fool them: in jail, I catch pneumonia and die.

Will: What’s wrong with perfection?
Joe: Nothing, if you’re God, and you’re prepared to wait 500 million years for it to evolve. But we have to start building this boat next week.

Will: We’re out in the desert, so bring some beer!

Morgan: Everyone wants it easy today Will. And the reason we don’t have the Cup, is that we don’t deserve to have the Cup.

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