Films on sports or competition have always appealed to me, because there have been many times in my life where I’ve wanted my talents to stand out. In The Novice, actor Isabelle Fuhrman plays an obsessed college student athlete who doesn’t just stand out, but pushes herself to dangerous levels.
One of Isabelle Furhman’s notable previous performances was as an evil adopted daughter in Orphan (2009). In The Novice she plays Alex Dall, a college freshman who joins the school rowing team. Dall has a mind like a sponge, and she succeeds academically, but what she really wants is to excel on the rowing team and make the varsity squad. She puts in extreme extra effort by working out before practices and getting advice on how best to train. But her obsession leads to alienation with her fellow teammates, classmates, and the faculty at her college.
The editing in The Novice really blew me away. The film is crisp, fast, and sharp, often with a focus on Furhman’s impressive athleticism, including some great closeups. I also enjoyed the film’s focus on academic politics and favoritism on college athletics, a problem that is undoubtedly very prevalent in that arena.
The Novice is an excellent film on a subject matter that is genuine. I also loved Fuhrman’s performance. Her character is fierce, with seemingly nothing to lose. The film has some disturbing moments, but it is a solid work of art. Three and a half stars for The Novice.