Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Remembering Without Limits

Usually I choose a movie that isn't great by conventional standards for this feature, but this time, I am taking a different route.

Without Limits is one of two biopics about the mid-distance runner Steve Prefontaine that were released in the late 1990s, and it is in every way the superior product.

At the time both movies came out, well, I was outright hostile to Without Limits. I mean, Prefontaine had come out 21 months earlier, and I really didn't see need for this second film. That, and I hadn't figured out what a douchebag Jared Leto was. Choking a hobbit because he didn't like your band... really. And I was on my anti-Scientologist kick even back then, and seeing that Without Limits was produced in part by Tom Cruise wasn't helping matters. And the trailer... the trailer is just awful.

But I was wrong. So wrong. I happened to have caught the movie on cable in the summer of 2000, and it won me over and made me an avid fan of the work of Billy Crudup. He really enmeshed himself in the role. And with a supporting cast including Donald Sutherland as Bill Bowerman and Monica Potter as Mary Marckx and it was directed and partially written by Robert Towne, the writer of Chinatown and director of Personal Best.

Now, I am not a fan of track and field, but this movie made me appreciate the sport. While I couldn't fully understand the physical stresses the body has to withstand to win, on an emotional level, it really spoke to me.

And Crudup's portrayal of the doomed runner brings a certain swagger and arrogance to the performance, but it is a likable quality as worn by the actor. "A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways as they're capable of understanding." How can I as a writer not respond to and feel a sense of kinship with a athletic figure that thought and performed in those terms? I can understand his hunger for greatness and doing things his own way... he truly was an artist on some level.

Now Without Limits may get a few of the facts wrong, as any biopic is apt to do, but on a narrative and character level, it tells the story in a much more compelling way. It was also the movie which most of the actual living participants in the events relayed have stated was the best reflection of the life of Prefontaine.

It is an excellent movie, and seeing as today is the anniversary of the tragic demise of this legend of long-distance running, it would probably be a good rental today.


tamiki said...

hey hey, what's up! thanks for commenting.

MC said...

Glad to see you again tamiki :)