2020 Milwaukee Film Festival: “GOLDEN ARM”
The 2020 Milwaukee Film Festival has been a welcome success ending its run yesterday. Despite the overwhelming options yet to be seen, I decided to end the festival on a lighter note with the film GOLDEN ARM.
GOLDEN ARM plays in the classic competition comedy arena. Danny (Betsy Sodaro), a truck driver by day, professional arm wrestler by night, is injured in a dirty move by her chief rival, the Bonecrusher (Olivia Stambouliah). Seeking revenge, Danny turns to her old college roommate Melanie (Mary Holland) and essentially tricks her into coming on the road with her. Melanie is suffering from a lack of confidence due to a failed marriage and a bakery business sinking under debt, but entering the world of professional arm wrestling might just be the way for her to regain her confidence.
GOLDEN ARM most decidedly does not reinvent the wheel. Reminiscent of DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY, GOLDEN ARM features all the quirky characters, silly costumes, erstwhile love interests, cartoonish villainy, and people taking a silly sport way too seriously that you’d expect. But it’s buoyed by a charismatic performance by Mary Holland who finds the emotional core and empowerment arc of her character, while still aiming for laughs. Holland and Sodaro also have a good dynamic going on, reminiscent of Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy.
Perhaps GOLDEN ARM is too reminiscent of a Wiig/McCarthy joint as you can’t help but make the comparison to a studio film version. GOLDEN ARM has its charms, but there are plenty of times when you can imagine a bigger, sillier, more colorful version which has the time and money for multiple takes and ad libs. GOLDEN ARM is charming enough, but it never delivers any really big laughs. Still, of all the films that I’ve seen this festival, it’s easiest to imagine this having an extended life on streaming services. And I think a lot of people will be happy to check it out.
Alas, the 2020 Milwaukee Film Festival is now over, although Milwaukee Film will continue on. Hopefully, we’ll have a return to normal in the next year and they’ll be able to mount a 2021 Milwaukee Film Festival in person. But, kudos to Milwaukee Film for taking lemons and making lemonade out of them.