Friday, September 04, 2015

Portland Film Fest - Day 2, Part 2.


One of the great things about the Portland Film Festival is that, instead of being centralized at one cinema, it is spread out all over the city, so no matter where you live in Portland there is a cinema near you showing films from the fest. So go see them Portlanders! But the flip side of this is that if you are the out of towner who is just here for the festival some films won’t work into your schedule because they are too far away. The first couple of years I was here I attempted to get from a film on one side of town, over the river, to a film on the opposite side of town... and was late or then realized there was no way I was going to do the whole thing in reverse and see a movie in the cinema where I started out. If film A starts at 7pm and film B starts at 9pm, there’s no way in hell you are going to make it across town in time to see film B... better off just staying in the cinema where you saw film A and seeing what shows next there.

Which is how I came to see THE RESURRECTION OF JAKE THE SNAKE. I was in the Mission Theater to see DARK CRYSTAL and could have raced to the Living Room Cinemas to see one of those movies, but worried that I might not make it in time. When I found out the line for JAKE was around the building and that now that I had my VIP badge I could take “cutsies” and just stay in the cinema... I decided to stick around. I grabbed the best seat in the house: corner balcony seat on the left side, which is where I watched Jason Momoa’s ROAD TO PALOMA last year. It’s right over the stage, great for the Q&A, next to the stairs (so you don’t have to get in anyone’s way if you need to go to the restrooms downstairs) and you get a great unobstructed view of the screen (no one in front of you). So I just stuck around.

This film was not what was circled in my program. I am not a wrestling fan (like that huge line outside), kind of never got into it. I understand it, I get why people are fans... I’m just not one of them. So I just figured I’d sit through the documentary and appreciate it as a movie (or not, if it didn’t work). The cinema *fills* with people. On the right side of the balcony there are *terrible* seats that face the left wall and would give you a stiff neck if you tried to watch the screen. Filled. Downstairs there are some sofas that are against the side walls, again not easy to see the screen: filled. This place is sold out!

Before the movie starts, UFC star Chael Sonnen comes on stage and introduces Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Diamond Dallas Page and director Steve Yu... and tells us they will be back for Q&A after the film, and DDP says they will sign every autograph and pose for every picture. Then the lights dim and the movie begins.

And this is the best movie I’ve seen at the Fest so far (writing this on day 4). Jake The Snake, big wrestling star, everyone’s favorite, had a secret alcohol and substance abuse problem, gets cut from WWF, and ends up kind of a pathetic mess... he gets a gig as the main event in some local wrestling bout, shows up drunk and downs 12 airline bottles of booze, staggers out into the ring and basically falls on his face without the opponent doing much. This ends up on TMZ, and Jake becomes a punchline. This guy makes Mickey Rourke’s character in THE WRESTLER look successful.

Retired wrestler Diamond Dallas Page sees this and realizes his friend (and mentor) needs help. DDP now has a successful yoga for manly men business and thinks some of the discipline elements of yoga might help Jake. Goes to see Jake... who is an overweight drunk who has basically burned every bridge behind him. When he was a famous wrestler he didn’t have much time to spend with his kids... and now that those kids are adults they don’t really want to spend much time with a loud drunk. This is the lowest point anyone can sink to... and what’s great about this movie is that it shows the struggles involved in digging yourself out of that point. DDP takes Jake back to his home and begins a long journey to get Jake sober and eating healthy and getting physically fit again. As Jake says, he always had his body (strength) to fall back on when everything else might be going wrong... but now his body is shot. He has a bad shoulder, a bad hip, he’s an old man. DDP gets him to start doing very simple yoga things, which are like hell for Jake. Gets Jake to quit drinking...

And the film shows the ups and downs of Jake’s struggle with alcoholism. The physical pain and deep rooted emotional pains make alcohol seem like a great temporary solution. One of the great things about this doc is that Jake bares his soul to us, tells us about his childhood issues with his father, all of the problems that drove him to be the best wrestler and now drive him to drink. Same problems.

This is the most uplifting film I’ve seen in years... and it’s uplifting *because* Jake’s struggle is not easy. He keeps falling down, and then has to pick himself up again. I cried several times, and I wasn’t the only one... this was a cinema filled mostly with manly men who love wrestling, and they were all crying, too. It’s an extremely emotional film. They did a great job of documenting Jake’s gradual evolution... when he steps on the scale and has lost a few pounds you cheer. When he finally gets back to his “fighting weight” and now has to see what he can physically do with this old body of his, it’s emotionally involving for us in the cinema (and I can say “us” because the whole audience was responding to this movie). I don’t want to spoil the film for you, because I want you to see it. Even if you are not a wrestling fan, this is a movie about a human being dealing with human problems. About a man who may have been strong on the outside, but had weaknesses within. And he fights his way out.

DDP comes off as a genuinely caring guy who helps Jake and fellow wrestler Scott Hall who was also in poor shape when his wrestling career ended. In the Q&A afterwards, one of the things that DDP urged everyone in the audience to do was help someone in need. If you have a friend who is in trouble, don’t ignore them. Yeah, friends in trouble tend to *be* trouble, but that’s why they need a friend to help them.

The movie opened today (Friday) at the Living Room Cinemas in Portland and will do a city by city tour around the country. When it comes to your town, see it. If you *hate* wrestling, still check it out. It's about people. Though this is purely selfish on my part: I want to see it again because it made me feel great. It made me feel that no matter how bad things get, you can always turn them around and get back on your feet. It’s a movie that shows you there is always hope. Always.

See this film.

Most of the people in that packed cinema stood in line for autographs and pictures... I decided to head back to the hotel and try to get some sleep.

More information on RESURRECTION OF JAKE THE SNAKE click here!

- Bill

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