Hands On A Hardbody

  • 1997
  • 1 HR 37 MIN
  • PG

It sounds smutty, but it's just a good, clean promotional stunt: A "Hands on a Hard Body" contest involves a shiny new pick-up truck and people willing to stand with one hand on it until only one is left. Think of it as the marathon dance competition of our day. S.R. Bindler's documentary about one such contest in Longview, TX, doesn't have much going for...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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It sounds smutty, but it's just a good, clean promotional stunt: A "Hands on a Hard Body" contest involves a shiny new pick-up truck and people willing to stand with one hand on it until only one is left. Think of it as the marathon dance competition of

our day. S.R. Bindler's documentary about one such contest in Longview, TX, doesn't have much going for it on the technical front, but it's a window onto solid human drama of a particularly unvarnished kind. The putative villain of the piece is Benny, a homespun spartan with a ratty little

mustache ("If you can't hunt with the big dogs, you got to get up on the porch with the pups") who won a truck two years earlier; a significant number of his fellow competitors think he's greedy for trying again. He's up against a cross-section of working class Texans, black and white, male and

female, middle-class and downright poor, young and older than you'd think: They include quiet J.D., who promises his wife he'll win for her; ex-marine Greg, who's hoping military training will give him an edge; embittered Janis, who quits declaring that the contest is full of cheaters and biased

judges; deeply religious Norma, with prayer circles in two states rooting for her; and Kerri, who drops out but, a note from the filmmaker tells us, came back two years later and prevailed. Make no mistake, everybody wants the free truck. But beyond that lies a poignant (OK, some might say

pathetic) need to be tested and found worthy: The contestants' overblown rhetoric about pushing themselves to the limits would be ludicrous if it weren't so obviously heartfelt. Bindler's slice of the American pie is a slim one, but it's fascinating none the less.

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