“Hey, kid — why don’t you take off your mask?”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
The script is primarily concerned with showing Rocky’s everyday life: he argues with his mom (a sad-eyed, feisty Cher) about her drug use:
… dreams of going on a motorcycle tour of Europe with his best friend (nicely played by Lawrence Monoson):
… bargains for tutoring money from his classmate:
… and, in the movie’s most touching scenes, falls in love with a beautiful blind girl (Laura Dern) he meets at summer camp.
We watch him struggle with his appearance and his disability (which, he’s been told for years, means imminent death), but it’s remarkable how many of his daily concerns could easily be those of other teens in a slightly different context.
Unfortunately, Bogdanovich — working from a script by Anna Hamilton Phelan — pads his storyline with extraneous material regarding Cher’s romance with a stoic biker named Gar (Sam Elliott, wasted in an undeveloped role):
— their presence ultimately eats up too much screentime. With that said, more scenes could easily have been prioritized for Stoltz’s touching romance with Dern, who does a fine job portraying a sweet girl deserving of Rocky’s affections. This one remains worth a one-time look for Stoltz’s performance, as well as the impressive, Oscar-winning make-up (which seems to emulate the real Rocky’s face quite accurately).
Note: Click here to read an archived People magazine article about the film’s real-life inspirations. Also, be sure to check out TCM’s article for more insights into Bogdanovich’s struggles during the making of this film, particularly regarding his fight to include songs by Bruce Springsteen; they’ve been restored in the recent Director’s Cut, though they don’t really come across as integral to the storyline.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: