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Photo courtesy Calgary Underground Film Festival

CUFF 2021 Reviews: Golden Arm

By Rachneet Randhawa, May 6, 2021—

The movie Golden Arm (2020), not only serves as iconic and uplifting entertainment, but it is also a story about speaking up for yourself by embarking on new challenges alongside women’s empowerment and fostering resilience. The movie centers around the lives of two women — Melanie (Mary Holland) and Danny (Betsy Sodaro). A smattering of other key players include Brenda, or Bone Crusher, (Olivia Stambouliah) and the enemy of Danny’s vengeful competition, “Big Sexy” played by American actress and real-life world arm wrestling champion Dot-Marie Jones. Jerry is the handy-dandy sports assistant (Ahmed Bharoocha) and lastly Greg (Eugene Cordero), is Melanie’s romantic interest. 

Overall, the plot follows a tough-lady trucker that trains her soft-spoken best friend to compete in the National Ladies Arm Wrestling Championship. The opening scene starts in the middle of an arm wrestling match between Bone Crusher Brenda and Danny — a fall out which leads to a fullon bar fight. During the brawl Danny breaks her hand and after the beatdown has a newfound revelation. She wants to try harder and make it to the national championships for the official arm wrestling tournament and win the grand slam title. But first she has to find her “ringer.” This scene is in parallel to Mel (Melanie) being shown working in her bakery and seeming somehow frustrated with the bearings that life as we know it has given her including getting divorced and losing her business. Mel and Danny are re-acquainted with one another and after a run-in tiff at a truck stop Danny decides that Mel as the newfound “Golden Arm” will be the sole competitor representing her at the national arm wrestling championship in Oklahoma. What follows is a series of play-by-plays — everything from reminiscing on their old college days as best friends as long haul truckers on the highway to the pep talks Danny gives to Mel to be strong so that she can deal with life’s adversities. This is sandwiched of course between eye-of-the-tiger-esque training montages with scenes of exercises, strength training and correct wrist posture. 

Photo from Golden Arm courtesy Calgary Underground Film Festival

One of the key arcs was encountering a woman that goes by the name of “Big Sexy” who is the cremedelacreme of the arm wrestling world. Initially, this backfires as Big Sexy claims that Mel doesn’t have the “fight” in her and might be a lost cause. However, a quick meltdown and euphemism later, Mel is back stronger than ever to stop adopting a victim mentality. She is now ready to find her voice so that she can speak and no longer allow others to dictate her life by putting herself first, as Danny constantly reminds her to “Eat, Pray, Love the shit out of life.” Mel’s few key transformations not only continue to evolve her character development but she classically emerges out of her cocoon a strong and opinionated woman. What started off as silly revenge for Danny’s enmity with Brenda became a full-on rediscovering of the self experience for Mel which she is grateful and humble for. There are many instances throughout which Mel is ready to throw in the towel — literally! — but camaraderie and encouragement with the help of her best friend, a boatload of laughter and a sprinkle of hope eventually help her pull through these difficult moments of uncertainty. At best, the film is a sultry reminder that despite all the obstacles and unfortunate circumstances one may face in their life through love, friendship and sincerity everything is possible if you believe as you dare to dream, even winning an arm wrestling championship as a newbie and finding your groove again. 

Those of you who are suckers for comedies from a female director’s perspective and are all about supporting women’s representation in sports, you would absolutely adore this movie. According to the Women in View’s 2019 on screen report, women’s share of film and creative work is only 25 per cent including writing, cinematography and directing and it’s even worse for BIPOC women at four per cent and this trend hasn’t really changed much. What is so amazing about this film is that it’s a triple threat for women’s equal representation in the media and film industry, sports and blue-collar occupations traditionally reserved for men. It challenges the status-quo and breaks barriers for women’s empowerment and representation in a fun-loving and humorous way. It allows us to explore the possibilities of gender equality on a more profound level.

This film is a solid portrayal of tears, laughter, inappropriately hilarious jokes, inspiration and realizations. The narrator at one point gives the definition of a Golden Arm or somebody that from the outside seems weak, ineffectual so soft like a jellyfish, but has one damn arm. Anything is possible so as a coming-of-age epiphany it shows us that she believed she could so she did in the end.

Golden Arm is officially set to be released on April 30, 2021 with availability to preorder on Apple TV. Check it out, it’s definitely worth a watch. 

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