FIND MOVIES
Movie List
Loading ...
or
Find Theaters and Movie Times
or
Search Movies

film_FISR-ZANE_main
IN YOUR FACE But it’s just wrestling for show.

Almost any documentary about a niche hobby or creative outlet (think Every Little Step or Spellbound) devotes some amount of screen time to the therapeutic value of such unlikely obsessions. This trope is definitely perfunctory, and its impact can run the gamut from affirming to awkward. So, what to make — in the case of Robert Greene's latest documentary, Fake It So Real, playing at SPACE Gallery on Valentine's Day — of a group of guys who dress up in tights, masks, and makeup, and more or less just pretend to beat the shit out of each other? The potential for psychodrama is rich.

It's sort of a surprise, then, to find that one of the overriding takeaways of Fake It So Real — about the members of a DIY wrestling league in North Carolina — is how normal most of its characters are. Most have day jobs and some have checkered pasts, while others have overcome strong physical limitations and some just love the sport. But the unifying highlight of their weeks is the five to fifteen minutes of their Saturday night spent in a modest limelight, as anywhere from a few dozen to a couple hundred people cough up five bucks to watch them perform as pseudo-gladiators.

To its unyielding credit, Greene's film is barely about why its characters have devoted themselves to a cause that is quirky and, at least financially (the league barely recoups the cost of renting venues), thankless. It is much more the story about two things: male bonding; and a group of artists at work, crafting a story that will ideally elicit a strong reaction from its audience.

Greene and his massively talented cinematographer, Sean Price Williams, have a knack for elevating everyday exchanges into an iconic realm. A previous collaboration, Kati With an I, attained transcendence through portraying just how mundane much of teenage romance can be. Something similar happens here in scenes of these guys simply hanging out and planning an upcoming fight night, and the conversations inevitably come to revolve around the league's youngest member, Gabe.

Gabe is a great case study in how difficult it is to create an effective wrestling persona. His gimmick is to portray an angel named Gabriel, an inspirational protector and combatant against evil, but his ever-changing attempts at flair are hilariously misguided, from a rainbow-colored halo he wears over his head to a hand-signal meant to represent a trumpet blaring that looks more like someone requesting a beer at a bar. Gabe's constant refrain is "What do you think I need to work on?" (the film's best running gag), and the responses are remarkably learned (e.g., "You're trying to write this guy a bibliography when you should just be writing him a quote").

These talks also lead to some occasionally possibly homophobic ribbing that constitutes a surprising chunk of Fake It So Real. (First line: "I am not a fag.") That said, these exchanges are so nuanced they could serve as the basis for a decent term paper on the subject, shifting from obvious, good-natured jokes to rather tense interrogations of Gabe's sexuality. Greene's treatment of the issue is at once judicious and naturalistic, capturing the discomfort of such aspersions without making any of its characters seem like jerks.

1  |  2  |   next >
  Topics: Reviews , fighting, SPACE Gallery, SPACE Gallery,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY CHRISTOPHER GRAY
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   GIRLS (AND BOYS) ON FILM  |  July 11, 2014
    The Maine International Film Festival, now in its 17th year in Waterville, remains one of the region’s more ambitious cultural institutions, less bound by a singular ambition than a desire to convey the breadth and depth of cinema’s past and present. (This, and a healthy dose of music and human-interest documentaries.) On that account, MIFF ’14 is an impressive achievement, offering area filmgoers its best program in years. With so much to survey, let’s make haste with the recommendations. (Particularly emphatic suggestions are marked in bold print.)  
  •   AMERICAN VALUES  |  June 11, 2014
    The Immigrant  seamlessly folds elements of New York history and the American promise into a story about the varieties of captivity and loyalty.
  •   CHARACTER IS POLITICAL  |  April 10, 2014
    Kelly Reichardt, one of the most admired and resourceful voices in American independent cinema, appears at the Portland Museum of Art Friday night to participate in a weekend-long retrospective of her three most recent films.
  •   LET'S TALK ABOUT SEX  |  April 09, 2014
    Throughout its two volumes and four hours of explicit sexuality, masochism, philosophical debate, and self-analysis, Nymphomaniac remains the steadfast vision of a director talking to himself, and assuming you’ll be interested enough in him to listen and pay close attention.
  •   ASHES AND DIORAMAS  |  March 28, 2014
    History, rather than ennui, is the incursion that motivates this, his most antic and most somber work.

 See all articles by: CHRISTOPHER GRAY