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Monday, January 15, 2007

Rocky Balboa

Over the weekend, I went to see Rocky Balboa for the third time. I've always been drawn to the Rocky series--going way back to when I was 10 years old and my mom took my sister and I to see the original. Knowing that this is the final chapter in the series is bittersweet for me.

The second time I saw the movie, a man and presumably his young son were seated behind us. He was filling the boy in on the details of the series whenever necessary as the movie progressed. At one point, he said, "I can't believe this stuff I'm telling you happened thirty years ago." Boy did I relate to that statement.

But Sylvester Stallone was counting on that nostalgia to carry the movie. He knew that the series carried that kind of power. I may write more about the movie later, but I for now I want to discuss the few things that really moved me:

Adrian's death: We don't really know how well Rocky dealt with her death early on because the movie begins several years after her death. But I loved the fact that he did an annual tour of the places that meant so much to them. Seeing the pet store again and the place where the ice rink used to be was moving. The tour was a wonderful way to honor his wife.

The beast inside: While discussing Adrian's death with Paulie, Rocky said that he felt like he had a beast inside. That's one of the reasons he wanted to climb back into the ring. He felt like he was losing everything--his wife was already gone and his son who was trying to distance himself from Rocky to make a life of his own--and the only way he knew to find himself was to see if he still had what it took to stand toe to toe in the ring with a great fighter. I loved hearing him tell Paulie after the fight that the beast was gone.

Rocky's son: He told Rocky that he casts a big shadow and it was hard for him to find his own identity. Somewhere along the line, he seemed to have stop trying. He was more content blaming Rocky for not going after what he wanted than he was with facing the possibility of failure. Rocky told him that cowards to do that and he wasn't a coward. It was one of the most powerful scenes in the movie.

Little Marie: I loved her character. She didn't want or expect anything from Rocky--even though he wanted to try to help her and her son. She laughed at all the right times, supported Rocky exactly when he needed it, and she didn't try to force the issue of a relationship with him--knowing that Rocky was still not completely over Adrian. A classy lady.

Rocky's passion: Rocky knew that he was slower than he used to be. He knew that he was older than most people are when they fight. But he was driven by his passion to step back into the ring and that's all that mattered. He didn't have to win the fight to appease the passion. He only had to show up in the best physical condition possible and give it everything he had. He more than accomplished that.

Rocky's wisdom: Rocky never had the best vocabulary, but that doesn't mean he wasn't wise. The way he handled his son was brilliant. The way he allowed Paulie to say stupid things so that he could get to what really matters to Paulie, was impressive. The way he showed respect to Mason Dixon after the press conference when they spoke one-on-one was beautiful. The way he pointed out Dixon's lack of fear to his son as being a weakness was, well...wise.

Rocky's compassion: I loved the way Rocky changed the burned out light-bulb outside of Little Marie's apartment. And how he befriended her son and gave him a job. And how he accepted Paulie for who he is. And for the way he allowed Spider Rico to eat for free in his restaurant on a regular basis.

In some ways, we are all Rocky Balboa. We all have our demons we are battling. We all have memories we are hanging on to. We all have doubters. We all have doubts. We all have longings. We all have passions. Unfortunately, we don't always try to conquer our demons or preserve our memories or face our doubters or pursue our passions. But we ought to.


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