Full disclosure: Prior to his filmmaking debut with Out in the Ring, director Ryan Bruce Levey and I have worked together and we’ve kept in touch online. When he announced Out in the Ring, I was excited to watch the doc because I was interested in the subject matter: wrestling and the LGBTQ+ influence the sport has had over decades. The finished film, while mechanical in its style and a little long in the tooth, is very satisfying.
Spanning over decades of matches, Out in the Ring showcases the pioneers who introduced their larger-than-life personalities to the much-watched sport and, with the help of educated and well-versed wrestlers, journalists and experts, further explains how much of these characters were embellished for performance purposes and how much reflected personal experience of the athletes. The segments are staggered without much pizazz, but the archival footage is a treasure trove of gems.
The juicier discussions take place within the back-half of Out in the Ring, where Levey delves deep into industry interpretations of homosexuality and bisexuality circa the 90s, 2000s and present day. The nuance of earlier eras transitioned into broad satire, and most of the results were crass and sloppy. The film debates that, even though the industry accepted effeminate tanks and muscular women, the intentions still perpetuated homophobia and negative representations. The doc then swings towards focusing on the mental health of these athletes who were affected.
Once Out in the Ring finds its legs, it solidifies itself as a must-see documentary.
Catch Out in the Ring at Toronto’s Inside Out LGBT Film Festival (in person or virtually) on:
Friday, June 3 at 4:45 p.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox
Click here to buy tickets.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie