Doug Dorsey (D.B. Sweeney) had a promising hockey career, until an eye injury sends him off the ice and into an uncertain future. Hockey is over for him, but he does get an unusual offer to become a figure skater.
Kate Moseley (Moira Kelly) is a talented, hotheaded, difficult figure skater who makes demands perfection from her partners – none of whom can meet her demands or put up with her difficult behavior. The only chance for her to win an Olympic gold is for her Russian coach (Roy Dotrice) to find her a partner who can not only perform well with her, but also have the stamina to put up with this prima donna on ice.
That’s where Doug comes in. The prim and proper figure skater and rough and tumble hockey player do not get along and they kick up as many arguments and insults with each other as ice in the rink. However, they gradually begin to bring out the both in each other and start to click on the ice. And not too surprisingly, they both start to fall for each other as they go for the gold.
Directed by Paul Michael Glaser (yep, Starsky from Starsky & Hutch fame) The Cutting Edge is a predictable romantic comedy. You know exactly where the story will lead you right from the start. There’s not here to surprise you.
Yet, it’s the ride getting there that is so much fun. The Sweeney and Kelly are both charismatic and give effective performances as the mismatched pair. Kelly excels as the spoiled icy skating Queen and Sweeney as the working-class hockey player who is trying to find his balance in this figure skating world. They have a fun chemistry and really make you enjoy spending time with them and be entertained watching the barbs fly and each trying to get the better of the other.
They run through a gamut of clichéd rom com scenes – putting each other down, gleefully watching the other fall on their butt, raising an eyebrow as they nail a skating move. The famous “Toe Pick!” exchange that has since become a favorite quote by fans and is now a popular meme.
You can tell the love story is starting to suck you when at a certain point, the big goal of them winning the gold medal becomes moot. And you’re fine with it! It’s no longer the aspect of the story you’re engaged by. You’re waiting for the moment when Doug and Kate actually admit their love for each other.
There are some really fun direction in certain scenes to what is essentially a basic romantic comedy. We all know the standard montages we’ve seen thousands of times in Rom Coms. The Cutting Edge has them as well, but they’re put together not as hackneyed and have more energy and creativity to them.
There’s one particular shot I always liked. As Doug and Kate try to one-up each other by getting to the practice rink before the other, they each do a mad scramble out of bed running to the rink and opening the door to it. As soon as we see each open the door we immediately see a figure skate past them on the ice, immediately indicating they just lost the morning race by the the other.
Another amusing little moment when we see a row of bottles. At first we’re thinking Doug is drowning his sorrows drinking the night away, until we see his hand reach for them and their little bottles from the minibar.
Figure skating fans will certainly enjoy the setting of Olympic figure skating. There are some wonderful scenes of skates zipping around the ice and balletic moves. The soundtrack has some good toe tapping early 90s music. The supporting actors (Terry O’Quinn, Dwier Brown, Dotrice) are all effective in their roles.
Dotrice is particularly good with as the Russian coach. I always found it funny how he isn’t bothered and gives no reaction, not even a look towards Doug walking with his sore hips packed in ice and Kelly rambling in the hospital waiting room.
The Cutting Edge has become a fan favorite. There’s been occasions when I would mention the film and still get surprised by how many people know it and like it. In some cases it’s from people I wouldn’t even expect to be watching a romantic comedy. They’ll go on about how much they like it, say “Toe Pick!” and describe how the Pamchenko is just too dangerous to try.
I guess I still think of The Cutting Edge as this smaller film that doesn’t enjoy huge popularity – even thought it seems everytime I mention it to someone they usually say, “That’s a good movie!”. I almost consider it more as a cult film than a mainstream favorite. It doesn’t have big stars in it, it didn’t do huge box office when it was first released and I don’t think it makes many mainstream lists of great romantic comedies.
But I must be wrong. There’s clearly a big fanbase who love The Cutting Edge. The title has to have some cache to it since they’ve done sequels to the film. I’ve never seen them but I imagine they’re cheaper and not as high quality. I envision Hallmark movie type of quality. So, the title is certainly viewed as something worthwhile to mine by Hollywood.
Still, it’s the original film that continues to entertain. Sure, it’s formulaic and we know these two characters will kiss before the credits roll, but sometimes a standard love story is what you want to see. And this skating romance delivers with some charming performances and the enchanting way it’s told. I always enjoy it whenever I get to revisit it.
A music montage of The Cutting Edge with the song Baby Now I by Dan Reed Network