Netflix Documentary Reveals the Abhorrent Truth About USA Gymnastics’ Larry Nassar
By Movieguide® Staff
The following is a portion of our review for ATHLETE A. Click here to read the full review.
ATHLETE A is a striking documentary on Netflix explaining the sexual abuse of female gymnasts by Dr. Larry Nassar. ATHLETE A exposes reveals the culture of physical and mental abuse within the USA Gymnastics organization.
The movie begins with a title card warning viewer of the graphic descriptions of sexual abuse. Cut to Maggie Nichols, who has her ankle taped up by a doctor at the University of Oklahoma. Maggie talks about her dream to get to the Olympics over b-roll of student-athletes doing gymnastic exercises.
Maggie continues to talk about her love for the sport of gymnastics and is joined by her mother, Gina, and her father, John. They note that coaches noticed Maggie’s talent from a very early age. In 2014, Nichols competed in the P&G Gymnastics Championship. Many thought of her as the second most promising star in Gymnastics behind Simone Biles. Although it seemed like she was on her way to achieving her dream, her parents say USA Gymnastics stole that dream.
The movie cuts to August 2016 to the Olympics in Rio, Brazil, as the female USA Gymnastics team is set to make history. However, at the very same time, the Indy Star newsroom located in Indianapolis releases a story about a possible scandal within the USA Gymnastics organization.
The movie introduces the investigative journalism team who published the article and eventually uncovered the sexual abuse of many female gymnasts by Dr. Larry Nassar. The journalists reveal many complaints about Nassar before even arriving at USA Gymnastics, but Steve Penny assures them and Maggie’s parents that they notified the law. However, many athletes, parents and others were still left wondering why no policies had changed and why the organization continued to employ the abusive doctor.
The movie cuts back to Maggie. As she begins to have a stellar career, she lands her a spot to train at an exclusive ranch in Texas and receive what many believe to be the best coaching in the country by Bela and Marta Karolyi. The two coaches are known for their hardnosed coaching, but the physical and mental toll that the training had on many of the young girls results in the filmmakers labeling the training as abusive.
Although the coaching environment was challenging for the girls, they all thought it was what it took to make it into the Olympics. One bright spot on the ranch was Dr. Larry Nassar, who snuck in food for the girls and lightened the mood between brutal coaching hours.
However, Nassar also abused his power and molested many of the girls on the 2015 team, including Maggie Nichols, but Maggie was the only one to report. Although Steve Penny assures Maggie and her parents he would look out for Maggie, no legal action was taken.
The investigative journalists at the Indianapolis Star begin to connect the dots and uncover the atrocity of Nassar’s relationship with the female gymnasts he doctored. They also expose the efforts of Steve Penny and the USA Gymnastics organization to cover up the crimes.
ATHLETE A is a striking documentary explaining the sexual abuse of female gymnasts by Dr. Larry Nassar. ATHLETE A is a testimony to justice and integrity and the tragic consequences of the abuse of power and selfish ambition. It highlights the courage of the survivors to speak out against the abusive culture. Although ATHLETE A has a strong moral worldview exposing and opposing a horrible form of child abuse, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution because of the graphic descriptions of abuse.