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Guest Film Review from Susan Harris

[EDITOR’S NOTE: A couple of months ago, I asked Susan Harris, who blogs at Takoma Gardener and Garden Rant, to review The Boynton Beach Bereavement Club because Portland, Maine, where I now live, doesn’t get many new movies. She did such a good job that she is now the semi-official film reviewer for Time Goes By. Here is her latest.]

Rocky6_175 GROWING OLD WITH ROCKY BALBOA Honestly, I'd never have seen the latest Rocky movie - in a theater, no less - if Ronni hadn't given me the assignment to review it. Time Goes By readers want to know! So I did the research and here's my TGB take on Rocky Balboa, the 60-year-old Sylvester Stallone's sixth movie in his famous franchise.

Now like everybody in the world, my heartstrings were pulled by the first Rocky, the classic underdog story with the stirring, trumpet-filled theme music. As for the sequels, including this one, not so much.

To me they're just expensive B-movies and not my genre. But guess what? The latest installment has been getting pretty good reviews, with quite a few "knock-outs" and "crowd-pleasers" in the critics' pool of nouns, though I'm more inclined to agree with these characterizations in The New York Times:

"…all heart and no credibility except as a raw-boned fable" and a "live-action cartoon that operates on cartoon logic."

So you should thank me for not explaining the plot. I suppose if I were a boxing fan I might agree with this faint praise in the Chicago Tribune:

"Certainly a bad film, but darn it, it ain't a half-bad movie."

It seems there's been a lot of buzz about Rocky's return engagement after a 16-year absence, fueled by reports of snickering at previews, but there's good news on that front. As one reviewer noted, we see Rocky's sun setting "with enough grace to make us all feel a little apologetic" about having doubts at all. So no cringing at the old guy here.

In fact, just look at the big balooka - he's still ripped! The character refers to having arthritis in the neck and calcium deposits in his legs, but Stallone looks fit as can be. And I like his attitude: "A few too many birthdays shouldn't be a reason not to fight."

Well, that's the problem to my way of thinking. Boxing's such a barbaric sport that it's crazy for anybody to do it, not just the older guys. Here, heroism is defined as how many punches you can take - classic masochism - and I'd prefer a healthier, more positive philosophy and a healthier, more positive sport - like race-walking or cycling or I don't know, rowing? Who cares, as long as it doesn't produce so much blood.

Like any loyal reader of Time Goes By, I'm on the lookout for ageist attitudes in the media and my perusal of the internet yielded these quotes for your thoughtful examination:

  • The Washington Post refers to that "old warhorse, Rocky Balboa. Old is right...He ought to be reaching for his AARP card, not his boxing gloves." Okay, a little yuck.
  • From The New York Times: "His body is just this side of muscle-bound and somewhat grotesque." But I think that's about the muscles, not the age of the body.
  • Rolling Stone magazine's reaction: "Stallone looks damn fit for a geezer." Another little yuck.
  • New York magazine's David Edelstein wrote: "It's not easy to look at Stallone. Whatever he did to his face is starting to become undone; parts of it are frozen while other parts droop." But that's really about plastic surgery - always fair game.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The Times writer should have done a bit of homework. The drooping is not about plastic surgery or, at least, not all of it. One side of Stallone’s face has always drooped due to a childhood accident or condition; I can’t remember which. – RB]

Frankly, the only part of the movie I enjoyed was seeing Stallone working out in the gym to get stronger and fitter for the big fight. I need to see my peers and especially my elders doing that; it's great motivation.

I say who cares about wrinkles on faces - it's the bodies we can do something about. We now know that women who lift weights and power walk can produce significant changes in their strength and bone density even when they start late in life. Men can do the same and even create Stallone-size muscles, if they make the (silly) choice to take it to that extreme.

Bottom line: I think we can relax about the world's reaction to Rocky Balboa. It's just another underdog movie and age just happens to be what makes him one.

[EDITOR'S POSTSCRIPT: Rocky Balboa has been added to the TGB ElderMovies List along with several other recently-suggested titles which are labeled with a "new" icon.]


Stallone was a half-time guest on Monday Night Football a few weeks back, and while the drooping dates from childhood, something else is at work there: I now have HDTV, and like the Times writer said, it was not pleasant to look at. I think HD is going to alter some careers, particularly among non-showbiz celebs (e.g. politicians) who are going to have to be more serious about makeup. (On the other hand, I'm glad to see so many of them have the same skin problems I'm encountering in my elder years.)

Also, the link in the last paragraph didn't take me to your movie list, but rather to the IMDB entry for a British TV series about children.

Deejay: Oops. The link is fixed now.

Stallone is getting older (not a bad word), but the Rocky Balboa character never ages. :)

Ah Susan...you never disappoint with your movie reviews, (although this may be only the second), and your writing for that matter.Your take on the movie with your individualized style and humour is delightful. You certainly have a unique approach which makes the reviews a pleasure to read. I look forward to many more!

I really enjoy these reviews and Susan's take on films. Reading her review is likely more entertaining than the movie in this latest Rocky reincarnation.

Ronni: perhaps sometime in the future.....ha...you might consider doing the same with books....fiction or otherwise. Over a year ago, I became frustrated trying to find novels about elders. I've managed to find a few, but would appreciate input from others who may be doing the same. Dee

Well done review - fun to read, probably more readable than the movie is seeable. It saved me from carting my old bones down to the theater. Stallone is definitely not my type, then or now, and boxing is at the bottom of my list of things to do or watch. Thanks, Susan, for taking on the chore. Good idea, Dee, about books. I would love to see Susan's clever takes on them.

Try John Gardner's "October Light." The first novel I've ever read that changed my own youthful bias against elders.

Thanks, TGB readers. I love the idea of books being covered, too, though it would have to come from someone else. (I know my limitations.)
And now you've all met my long-time friend and supporter, Marv. Has anybody ever noticed that not all long-time friends ARE supportive of one's aspirations?

(to the tune of that song from "oklahoma"?)

everything's up to date in wrinkle city...they've gone about as far as they can go...

thanks for the good review. you've saved me another $9 nap...

run, don't walk, to see almodovar's "volver"! the premise, basically: after your mother dies, she comes back!!

You suggest above that my review (in New York Magazine, not the Times) was "ageist," and your editor added that I should have done my homework re: Stallone's face. But the issue here is neither congenital defects nor age but the long-term effects of plastic (cosmetic) surgery. This--not the natural effects of aging--is why so many Hollywood stars in their fifties and up, male and female, are such horror shows. Parts of their faces are frozen, other parts are weirdly puffy, other parts droop at unnatural angles. The phenomenon is brilliantly sent up by Catherine O'Hara in For Your Consideration: This beautiful, unaltered, fiftysomething actress demonstrates (with no prosthetics) the ludicrous effects of surgery over time. Stallone always looked like a mutt, so who cares about him? Far more upsetting is the current state of Jessica Lange...

here is my take on stallone. i wish everyone 60yrs old could look like that, lets be honest they all would like to look like that. my dearest and nearest dosent look like that so what. i still loved the movie and the work that took to reach the bod stallone has. give credit where credit is due. cheers everyone and remeber we are the first generation that has had to process so much information so i think we are doing okay.

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