Sunday, October 28, 2007

No. 11 - Stay Hungry

Stay Hungry defies easy categorization. It features Arnold Schwarzenegger in his first speaking role, but it's not an action film. Despite its humor, it's not a comedy. Despite the fact that co-stars Jeff Bridges and Sally Field meet cute, bicker and end up together, it's not a love story.

Bridges plays Craig Blake, a charming rich kid who gets involved with some shady real estate developers in Montgomery, Alabama. They want to build a high-rise, but a decrepit old gym stands in the way. Craig is dispatched to buy out the gym's owner, but he refuses to sell. Craig then finds himself drawn into the world of bodybuilders who work out at the gym, and he falls for poor girl Sally Field. Schwarzenegger plays Santos, a bodybuilder -- what a stretch. He provides Craig with bits of Yoda-like wisdom, such as "there's no growth without burning." Before long, Craig has switched sides.

Director Bob Rafelson's film is a coming of age story, a satire of ruthless businessmen, and an in-depth exploration of the sport of bodybuilding. It also captures the unique atmosphere of Alabama, from high society mansion soirees to tavern brawls to boardroom machinations and then back to the country club for club sandwiches and tennis.

Stay Hungry, like many 70's films, questions the American Dream of making a big score. Craig is a man who has more than he needs, and yet he's empty inside. How do you really make it? You learn to "stay hungry," as Santos suggests.

There are some wonderful performances in this film. Joe Spinell is wonderful as a scuzzy real estate developer, R.G. Armstrong is great as the voyeuristic gym owner, and Roger E. Moseley and Robert Englund are both great as oddball gym employees. This was also Sally Field's first major film role, and she does a great job. Bridges turns in his customary great performance. And Arnold acquits himself well.

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