Friday, December 5, 2008

"In sports you should play fair. In war, you shouldn't play fair at all." REVIEW

*photo taken of director Chris Bell just hours between photos

Bigger Stronger Faster-2008-Chris Bell

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If Michael Moore has taught us anything, it is the fact that documentaries are generally totally subjective. The director takes a subject they feel passionate about, finds any evidence pointing towards their thesis and ignores all other evidence pointing the other way. This goes contrary to what the public feels about documentaries. When Fahrenheit 9/11 came out there were people in a frenzy. Everything said in it just had to be true, it was a documentary. While I am definitely no Bush supporter by any means, we all know just how Moore twisted the facts and used them to bend to his own theories. To be honest, I have little problem with that as long as the film is still compelling. I just don't enjoy being manipulated.

Chris Bell has created a documentary so interested in truth, so interested in getting to the bottom of a major problem in America, that's it's refreshing. Bigger Stronger Faster is about steroid use in America. The closest we get to any people affected by steroids are the entire Bell family. Chris' brothers Mark and Mike(Smelly) Bell. We see how steroid use has affected them in their daily lives, and their family. We also get a glimpse at their religious parents and what they feel about what has happened to their sons.

Bigger Stronger Faster is at once totally light hearted and almost cheery in the sense that we are learning something in a unique way, but as the film goes on, we see how tragic it truly is. What amazes me, is how the film is interested in the facts to such a degree that it refutes itself quite a few times. We hear both sides on the steroid battle and even get examples of enhancement drugs in other fields of work.

The portrait that Chris Bell allows us to see of his brothers is the most heartbreaking part of the story. Mark, the oldest, has dreamed of becoming a professional wrestler for so long. He has a wife now and a kid on the way, yet he still isn't giving up that dream. Not only that, he isn't giving up his steroid use.
Smelly wins seemingly every weight lifting competition he joins. But his wife wants him off steroids, first, so they can have a kid, but she wants him to stay off of them. Will he or won't he? His attachment to the drug and to staying the strongest is so tragic.

It's really wonderful the ways in which the film examines the American dream. Growing up, we are constantly bombarded with the idea that, as long as we put our minds to it and try hard enough, we can accomplish anything. This is such a true statement, but at the same time incredibly misleading. Sometimes we fall short, as Mark obviously has. Are we to applaud him to continue going for his dream even though he is getting older? Or are we to join their father in grief for what he is doing to his family? It's a conflicted ideal to begin with. Chris shows Mark as someone who really has a lot going for him, but is still willing to lose all of that to accomplish his dream.

Bell's sympathetic approach to his brothers and other steroid users really struck me as genuine. You can tell the guy has so much respect and adoration for all of these people, while at the same time grieves their choices.

To me, the film transcends its material in a small scene where Chris and his father are talking in a restaurant. His father goes on about how we just have to love people, that's all it comes down to. Everyone makes big mistakes, but that doesn't stop them from doing great things. He offers examples from the Bible, like King David and Abraham, and compares those using steroids to these men of the Bible. To some, this may seem a little contrived, but to me, it really struck me as beautiful. Here is a man, who earlier in the film was expounding on the ways in which his oldest son is being an idiot, yet in this scene, we hear how he can overcome those initial feelings of annoyance with his son's choices and feel that he is still capable of some truly astounding things.Bigger Stronger Faster is not the hardest hitting of documentaries, but it's earnest approach and journalistic integrity should not be cast aside. It's not everyday that most Americans see this subculture. We are left to see it from our couch watching ESPN as MLB players are accused of drug use time and time again. We put little thought behind what has caused these men to do such a thing. Bell gives us a grey world where nothing is in black and white, I hope Michael Moore was watching.

7 comments:

the editor., said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
the editor., said...

Hi! D.P.,
I think that you are really good writer and this review is very interesting!
My question is...I wonder if there are "body builders" that can build their "physique" minus the steroids?

I am quite sure that there are body builder whom build muscle naturally and I think that these two brothers should try the natural approach, to building muscles.

But after reading your review it certainly don't seems like they (The Bell brothers) are going to let their use of steroids go any time soon.
(I must admit it's "heartbreaking" to read about the Bell brothers addiction to steroids!...and what their families are going through!)

Btw,I like to watch documentaries therefore, I most definitely will seek the documentary Bigger Stronger Faster-2008-Bell out!
Tks,
dcd ;-)

Dead Pan said...

I would definitely recommend you check this one out. Thanks for the compliments. =)

By the way, in regards to your wondering if there are body builders who build their physique naturally, I forgot to touch on how the director, Chris Bell, is a body builder who does just that. He is the middle brother. His other two brothers take steroids but he does not. We see him and his younger brother in a competition where his brother beats him by almost two hundred pounds.

Again, I strongly recommend you see it for yourself as it is a truly great documentary.

the editor., said...

Hi! D.P.,
I can "almost" tell from the photograph(s) that the middle brother don't use "steroids"
to enhance his physique.

Because his muscles look more natural, but his brothers' muscles, on the other hand, look enhanced, almost artifical and dispropotion with the rest of their arms.
All I can say is...Wow!
I most definitely, will try to check this documentary out!

Tks,
dcd ;-)

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