Monday, January 27, 2014

I "Really Liked It" Strongman: Or how a 2 hour documentary left me wanting more

Strongman (2009) PosterThe story of this documentary, a muscle man trying hard to still make a living off of his skill of being a strongman who can bend nails and pennies with his bar hands, I will grant you does not sound that interesting; then when you see that it is 1 hour and 53 minutes, you’re like: How and or why do they stretch that story out for nearly 2 hours? An hour maybe, which is all I’ll probably give it. I play the movie.

            You certainly need to be in the right mood for this kind of documentary. It's long and interesting and long too. 

            This documentary is what a good documentary should be like and it benefits from being on Netflix for the fact that one can break the movie up and spread it out over a few nights.

            It’s the people that make this documentary everything that it is, and it becomes obvious after a while why the documentary is almost 2 hours long, because these people are interesting. The story not so much, and were it entirely about his career it would probably be impossible to get 2 hours out of it, but it all becomes more about the man and his girlfriend and brother and the relationships that Stan has with them all. By the time the 2 hour documentary was over I wanted more. My view had totally changed from when I started it and wondered what could they possibly have to fill up 2 hours, to the end of the film when I wondered where I could find more information out about these people.
            I watched a little bit the first night and liked it so much that when I started it the next night I showed my wife. I explained to her about the people and how interesting they were and then showed her the movie. She lasted maybe 2 or 3 minutes. She didn't like any of the people at all. She thought they were annoying and they made her sad and depressed. So we turned it off and I watched it later on my own.

            Stan, the Strongman, often talks about all sorts of new age thoughts and feelings. Certainly not what you'd expect coming from a man who can lift cars and bend pennies with his fingers.

            Not that you'd expect the man to be a monster (I’m aware of the whole “gentle giant” thing) but with that muscle and that determination and the obstacles that keep popping up in his way you'd think he'd be a bit I don't know. Angrier. In almost 2 hours and through being short changed for doing an event and being let down by his manager and just having been dealt a raw deal by life his anger only comes out once but Jesus did it make me nervous. I mean. I knew he wasn't gonna hit the toothless loud mouth drug addict because if he did sure as shit they'd have put that in the trailer, but besides that he just didn't seem the type to hit anyone. He came close. Had me cringing a bit but he never did it. 

            The documentary leaves you wanting more. A good sign. And it is so full of stuff that it's no wonder it's so long and still there stuff it can't get into. His girlfriend and her apparent past as a model and his brother. A nice enough guy but hooked on drugs. Stan's girl really steals the show at times just by being there. Stan, his girl, and his brother in the truck listening to music turned up way too loud and Stan's girl just sits there, not sure what to do. Like she wants to make everyone happy. Least of all herself. 

            During a conversation between Stan and his brother, Stan suggests that his brother just needs to take control of his life (or something along that line) and his brother, drunk (as he is through most of the movie) or possibly even high (as he is shown doing more than a few times), tries to explain to his brother that he in fact has accepted his lot in life. He may not like it (or he might) but he has accepted it. Of course I got all of this through a wordless mumble and then a helpless laugh and shrug, so I may be wrong, but still, his brother was an interesting guy who – like Stan’s girlfriend – has a story to him that made him and this documentary feel so much bigger than the 2 hours it was given.

            I like to write stories, and I think that may be one reason why I enjoyed this documentary so much. It plays out like a literary masterpiece, something Steinbeck or Faulkner would write about. The way Stan keeps talking about how cold it is, while he struggles to accomplish his goal, and he talks about how warmer days are coming, a change is coming, it’s almost poetic. Or when he talks about how he can bend bars and bend chains but he can’t bend people, and you can just tell that he really has no idea the sort of symbolism that is in the words he says or the thoughts he has, but to us it’s impossible to not see it.

            This documentary is a perfect view of a man’s struggle to not just accomplish his goal but to decide if it’s time to give it up or keep trying. I finished this documentary right before watching Mitt and the two are similar in more ways than one might think but in the end, for Stan and Mitt, as for all of us at some point, we have to decide – from this moment on – what do I do, and which decision is not only best for me but for those who I love as well. It’s not a pleasant point in one’s life, and certainly not easy, but one that must be faced, and one that is easier if faced not alone, no matter how strong you are.

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