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Review: 'The Gymnast'

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

I screened the movie The Gymnast in preparation for my upcoming interview with Dreya Weber.

She is the star of both The Gymnast (2006) and the sequel, The Aerialist (2020) that is about to be released.

While I liked The Aerialist very much, I must admit that I liked The Gymnast even more.

Don’t get me wrong, they are both worth seeing, even if you happen to see them out of chronological order like I did.

Jane Hawkins (played by Dreya Weber) is the fictional character in both movies.

In this one, she plays a beautiful gymnast whose hopes are dashed early in her career due to an achilles tendon injury.

Now, approaching her mid-40s, she finds herself stuck in a loveless marriage spending her days as a busy but bored massage therapist.

She’s still in top shape, as we see in the opening scenes of the film, and soon she finds escape and hope when she enrolls in an adult gymnastics class.

Her sole classmate is a beautiful Korean woman named Serena (Addie Yungmee) who has dreams of working up a flashy, two-performer Cirque du Soleil-style Las Vegas act.

Of course, their strenuous workouts result in a bond of friendship that teeters on crossing the line.

And while this might seem like the storyline of any number of late night adult cable movies, The Gymnast steers in a direction that is sensuous and sexy without being trite or cliché.

The women are fit and trim and knockout gorgeous, but they are also incredibly talented performers who look and act like the real deal.

These aren’t just actresses pretending to be aerial performance artists.

It’s clear that they possess the athleticism and agility that doesn’t require the use of stunt doubles or stand-ins.

In the movie they demonstrate that they can climb a rope to the ceiling of a gymnasium without using their legs.

If you don’t know how incredibly difficult and impressive that is, I encourage you to try it sometime.

Yes, there are a lot of eye candy shots of incredibly tight abs and toned bodies. But there really is no gratuitousness.

These are sexy women in a sexy business. The movie doesn’t oversell that.

Beyond sexy, it is also sensuous.

The physical attraction between the two dancers is a slow process that unfolds at a very slow, cautionary pace.

It’s a slow-burner relationship that seems refreshingly real, shifting from playful to passionate on a very believable story arc.

Throughout there is a sense of tactile, physical connection.

The Gymnast was produced by Dreya Weber.

It was directed and edited by her former real-life husband Ned Farr.

Together they crafted a first rate adult drama with a lot of visual sizzle and detail.

The photography, lighting, art direction and editing are solid. It’s a joy to watch.

I was particularly impressed with the handling of the dance aerial dance sequences involving the floor to ceiling red drapes from which the dancers are suspended.

They are a breathtaking element of the powerful performance sequnces.

During the rehearsals, they become gauzy cocoons of mystery and intimacy, arty and erotic.

Not surprisingly, The Gymnast was the recipient of numerous awards when it was released including Best American Independent Feature Film at the 2007 Cleveland International Film Festival, a festival I've reported on regularly over the years.

The Gymnast also won almost a dozen top awards at various LGBT and Gay & Lesbian Film Festivals.

It’s a well-produced movie that was very well received by critics and independent film fans.

One of the things I admired in particular was Weber’s middle-aged character who is strong both physically and spiritually, comfortable in her skin, and not trying to look or act like someone half her age.

Yes, Hollywood, middle-aged women can still be attractive and alluring without cosmetic surgery or tons of makeup.

As mentioned, this is adult entertainment with nudity, adult language and adult themes.

But it’s not the standard fare, R-Rated, adult drama.

What sets it apart are two remarkable actresses who take the movie to a whole other level (no pun intended).

It’s probably a safe bet that you’ve probably never seen two women like Dreya Weber and Addie Yungmee.

If you haven’t seen The Gymnast, I highly recommend it.

You might want to couple it, back-to-back with The Aerialist some night and make it an old fashioned, date night double-feature.

Just make sure the kids are in bed.

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