‘Untold: Caitlyn Jenner’ Review: Honoring the Athlete

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Caitlyn Jenner is best known as a tabloid celebrity and family member of the Kardashian clan who publicly transitioned as a transgender woman. However, “Untold: Caitlyn Jenner,” an episode of the new Netflix documentary series “Untold,” highlighting under-appreciated sports-related stories, illuminates the events that brought Jenner her first international recognition; that is, the gold medal he won as a decathlon athlete at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

Jenner tells her own story of an intense training regimen that included strenuous practice every day for four years. Director Crystal Moselle (“Wolf Pack,” “Skating Kitchen”) supports Jenner’s memories with archival footage, home videos, training footage and clips from Olympic broadcasts. The combination of contemporary imagery and today’s interior monologue creates a sort of sports broadcast dream: it allows the viewer to hear the athlete’s thoughts during Jenner’s seemingly impossible jumps, races, jumps, and shots.

But if the sports footage is rich in detail, the rendering of the supposedly untold part of this story is more subtle. The documentary shows that the world’s greatest athlete – as decathlon winners are often called – is a trans woman. Yet Jenner’s perspective on her past suggests a unique alienation. In his own words, he talks about “how he built this Bruce character” and attributes his success to this invention. She admits she uses sports to avoid coming to terms with her gender identity, but is proud of what her creativity has accomplished. It’s an intriguing perspective that sadly receives little follow-up or detail, leaving the movie flat-footed as it drifts off the track.

Untold: Caitlyn Jenner
Not rated. Working time: 1 hour 9 minutes. Watch on Netflix.

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