Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Paragraph Movie Reviews: Bigger, Stronger, Faster*

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

Though it's not a universal rule, documentaries tend to work best when the director has a vested personal and emotional interest in the subject; in the case of Chris Bell's examination of America's steroid culture, the author has intimate ties to his investigation, and as such, he creates a powerful, informative and oft-times heartbreaking piece. A weightlifting enthusiast who idolized Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hulk Hogan and whose brothers are both steroid users, Bell both tells the story of his family and also sets out to interview numerous experts, athletes and a colorful assortment of other characters in a quest to understand why his heroes and loved ones practice a lifestyle he grew up understanding to be wrong. I don't believe Bell is a full-time professional filmmaker and this works both for and against his case. The project comes off as earnest because you can sense through Bell he desperately wants to find some logic in the paradoxes that surround him, and his genuine reactions to his findings will hit you harder because he comes off more as an average guy doing a research paper or something as opposed to a polished director angling for awards. At times there is a cut to a cartoon or pop culture reference that feels unneeded or distracting, but it almost adds to the documentary's heart in the same way that Bell's voice not being that of the traditional and nuanced narrator does. I will say that the project lacks focus at times as Bell has a lot of information and arguments to present and sometimes jumps around without much seeming rhyme or reason and doesn't really finish trains of thought, but you get a lot out of it even if the presentation is a bit clunky. It's also a very balanced piece as Bell gives equal air to both pro and anti-steroid arguments, not necessarily painting anybody as the bad guy; he really is just looking for answers. The soul of the project really is Bell's family drama, and I have to give him, his parents and brothers a lot of credit for putting their story out there as it was definitely one worth telling.

1 comment:

hcg said...

I hope you have a nice day! Very good article, well written and very thought out. I am looking forward to reading more of your posts in the future.