The advent of streaming channels has led to a curious blurring of the lines between reality content and documentary. Broadly speaking, everything that involves real people can now be claim the portentous ‘documentary’ moniker. David Darg’s and Price James’ film about the recent trials and tribulations of a Hollywood actor is the most recent offering in this new nether-genre which provides simple entertainment disguised as insightful reportage.
For the majority of the running time this involves exactly what you would expect when a friend follows a celebrity: family fun, attending events and dinners, interviews and camera confessionals. In an effort to elevate a mere David Arquette documentary, James and Darg have framed the doc around Arquette’s potential return to wrestling. His first residence occurred two decades earlier as a result of some creative/desperate writing when WCW was deploying everyone from The Insane Clown Posse and Dennis Rodman to the 45th President of the United States.
Clearly filmed over several years, Arquette goes from paunchy and pale to ripped and wrestler-like in a matter of a few professionally taken photographs. Further opportunities for personal exploration are missed when his new wife explains her concerns about a recovering heart patient taking the heavy blows associated with sports entertainment. A more incisive technician would have delved into these reservations and took the opportunity to interrogate Arquette’s motives, which never get any deeper than, ‘I dunno… I just have to’.
Fortunately Arquette, as a subject, is engaging and perhaps unsurprisingly, as a young man once tipped for greatness, genuinely charismatic and quite likable, despite the occasional lapse into self-pity when he irritatingly bemoans ‘auditioning for ten years and not getting anywhere’. A cursory glance at Arquette’s recent work history reveals that ‘not getting anywhere’ translates as ‘not getting meaty parts’, but paying his not insubstantial mortgage through voiceover and low-level productions for union scale pay.
There is one quite effective wrestling moment that perfectly captures the inherent risks and the seriousness with which he has embarked on this latest wrestling journey. After getting back into ring-shape, and taking on a disparate and quite diverse and varied set of opponents, Arquette agrees to fight a deathmatch with Nick Gage. As the fluorescent light tubes and steel folding chairs are battered on Arquette’s bleeding torso, worse is to come as the match seems to eddy from brutal but choreographed to injurious and accidental.
In many ways Arquette seems to want to experience pain in the ring as some sort of catharsis for his short tenure in WCW, which culminated with his actually winning the championship. Despite the pre-planning of this event and the writer even admitting that he damaged wrestling by pushing for the controversial storyline, it seems that Arquette wants to prove that he is just as much a wrestling fan as those who booed his win by going through the process once again – but this time without a safety net.
Available in digital formats from Mon 23 Nov 2020