Golden Arm succeeds with showmanship. Or rather “showwomanship”, given the film’s gender flip of a formula usually associated with testosterone-fueled sports movies.
The sport of Golden Arm gets our attention right away – the competitive world of arm wrestling. From messy matches in dive bars to a professional bracket tournament, director Maureen Bharoocha and cinematographer Christopher Messina truly capture the spontaneous adrenaline experienced by competitors and audiences during an intimate duel. The environments and the reactions all feel genuine, which is an important positive quality to have in a sports movie; especially an underdog story like this one.
But, Golden Arm isn’t necessarily about its niche sport, but rather about the people who fill out rosters and fanbases. In that way, it’s less like Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and more like an R-rated version of 2005’s kids soccer comedy Kicking & Screaming. The backbone of the film’s story is the likeable friendship between besties Melanie (Mary Holland of Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates) and Danny (Betsy Sodaro, who was last seen briefly in Sia’s controversial Music). After Danny, an outrageous and enthusiastic arm wrestling pro, suffers a brutal and seemingly suspicious injury preventing her from competing in a major tournament, she coaxes Melanie, a meek baker who is suffering from an emotional injury, into going on a road trip – which turns into.an opportunity for Melanie to be Danny’s substitute.
Melanie doesn’t believe in herself, which ties into the predominant theme of Golden Arm. The film’s message about finding confidence and your own sense of positive wellness is acknowledged through Melanie’s athletic transformation, Danny’s loneliness, and through other arcs experienced.from supporting players. The strong message also has the power to pull undercooked elements through to the finish line, such as the romance shared between Melanie and a referee (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Eugene Cordero), but that relationship also has the advantage of having red-hot chemistry.
Golden Arm has some edge to it with its adult vocabulary and instances of violence, but it’s otherwise a very friendly film featuring people supporting each other. While that genial charm is a representation of its production, the entertaining movie couldn’t have done it without the solid screenwriting of Ann Marie Allison and Jenna Milly.
It’d be cheap to attribute this softer storytelling to its female filmmakers considering this is a message for all audiences, and because the feeling of longing for encouragement is universal no matter what gender you are.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie