Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review: "GreasePaint"

I have great respect for pro wrestlers. Ever since 2000, when my older brother took me and others to a Monday Night RAW TV event, I’ve read books, watched old tapes and absorbed as much information as I could on the subject. We’re watching guys and gals perform daring feats of strength and courage, tell a story with their body language and be charismatic enough to connect with people; silent film acting is alive and well, people! I could basically sum it up with “The Wrestler got it right. All of it.” Seriously. Mad props to these performers.

Clowns, on the other hand...

No, I don’t dislike clowns - I’m just indifferent towards them. Once, my parents took me to a circus. During the show, a clown came through the crowd, to pick a kid to join him. When he came to me, I just shrugged, shook my head and let out a half hearted “eh”. It wasn’t anything personal; clowns just never connected with me. Sure, watching Bozo on TV was fun, but mostly to see if one of those kids would eventually win the ball toss game.

Clowning and wrestling are a LOT alike, as shown in the documentary GreasePaint. Directed by Daniel Espeut, an old high school wrestling teammate of mine (how’s that for coming full circle?), the story of the Thurmond Family and their circus acts gave me much to consider. Long road trips, performing the same act multiple times towns after town, precise timing, storytelling and showmanship aren’t solely the trials and tribulations of squared circle warriors.

Joey Thurmond, the patriarch of this family of performers, actually did some wrestling himself. He even had an all too familiar incident with the notorious Vader, who powerbombed him with full force and then some. It’s clear that no matter the risks (and there are always risks) Joe loves the roar of a crowd and the high of sharing his talent and joy with others. So, why not make it a full time career? Why not get the family involved?

The man is very dedicated to his craft, going so far as to renovate a large truck into working living quarters for when his family is on the road. That alone says a lot about his passion. When he talks about his sons decision to stop performing alongside him, he speaks about it in the context of losing a performing partner, not a child. He tears up, but is just unable to say what he’s feeling. That speaks volumes as well.

Bounced checks, worry over the dangers of a new trick, frustration about the timing of a gag... no matter. This is what NoJoe loves to do, and despite all of the drama, he’ll push on - red nose and all. It would be inappropriate to compare him to Randy “The Ram” from The Wrestler, but those two do share something; a need to perform. Most don’t understand this (being in front of an audience scares some to death), but it is a wonderfully freeing thing, to put all of yourself out there, and in that manner. I wish I could be as brave.

Much like the occasional rained out park that circus workers must deal with, this movie has some lulls. It’s all edited together rather well, but there are scenes that feel redundant and unnecessary. It’s really a small gripe, and actually, thinking about it some more, might put the audience in the feeling of monotony that some of the players feel when on the road. During those moments, I certainly felt that way.

I can’t say that clowning resonates with me as much as pro wrestling does, but I certainly do respect it more. What is the difference between those that wear bright tights and those that put paint on their faces? Nothing, really. The accolades, the heartache, the broken bones, the drama and the compulsion to perform all follow these professions. When you go to a circus or a wrestling event, be sure to react a bit, and let them know you’re there. They’ll appreciate that.

3/5 *s

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