2020 | Dir. Maureen Bharoocha | 93 minutes
Reviewed by Joel Larson
A scrawny, timid baker doesn’t seem like a worthy opponent for a women’s arm-wrestling champ (especially one nicknamed “Bone Crusher”) but if the gangly pushover can roll up her sleeves and find her inner strength, she just might be.
Maureen Bharoocha directs this outrageous and somewhat generic underdog story. Golden Arm starts when Melanie (Mary Holland), a recent divorcé struggling to keep her bakery from meeting the same fate as her marriage, gets an uncommon visit from an old college friend, Danny (Betsy Sodaro). When Danny reveals her arm was injured in an arm-wrestling match after her rival cheated, Melanie is quick to show her disgust and disapproval with the childish competition; one she and Danny used to face off in regularly when they couldn’t agree on where to eat.
Determined to avenge her loss, Danny, a long-haul trucker, tricks Mel into going with her on a
fake delivery to Detroit, where she tries to convince Mel to take her spot in a national arm-
wrestling tournament. Not long into the trip, Mel is slammed into the rowdy world of women’s
arm wrestling. Although Mel lacks confidence, composure, direction, drive, poise,
pride—basically everything it takes to become a champion—she’s got Danny’s friendship and
one hell of an arm.
Golden Arm uses characters seen in most underdog movies: the protagonist with promise,
whose biggest obstacle is her self-doubt which she must overcome to succeed. And less
forgivably: the tough-talking antagonist who taunts our hero throughout the film, with her
dopey sidekick repeating her insults like an insecure echo. The familiar model is kept fresh by
the unorthodox sport and the nature of its vulgar and brutish participants. One of them being
the hard-drinking, mullet-sporting, “Big Sexy,” played by actress and 15-time arm-wrestling
world champ, Dot-Marie Jones. From the opening scene, it’s obvious everyone in the film is
going to be eccentric in some way.
Sodaro’s performance makes Danny the best of all these outlandish arm-wrestlers. She’s the perfect combination of aggressive and goofy. She wears her feelings shamelessly, whether she’s expressing her love for getting into bar fights or talking dirty with a former companion while Mel stands between them watching awkwardly. Danny’s immature antics and blurbs are what deliver the biggest laughs. The few dull scenes in the movie are the ones she isn’t present for. Namely, a brief romantic scene that feels much longer than it actually is; partly due to an unnecessarily prolonged shot, but mostly due to nothing truly funny happening.
The film isn’t all rough-housing and yelling. There are touching moments between Mel and
Danny as they rekindle their old friendship, and Mel starts finding herself through the madness
of the sport. These moments are just as silly but, on a quieter, more wholesome level, and they
make you root for Mel even more.
Never too serious, Bharoocha’s oddball flick covers everything needed for a good late-night
comedy: ridiculously unrealistic scenarios, rapid-fire laughs, and funny, lovable characters. On
tap of that, it’s nice to see a sports movie about a sport and culture that hasn’t already been
done 100 times.
Golden Arm screens at our first-ever RBC Sunset Drive-In Theatre on Thursday, July 22! Drive-In tickets are still available, so book yours today to see Golden Arm on the big screen! Golden Arm is also available on GIFF Online as part of GFF’s Women-Driven Film Series now until the end of the Festival on July 25. This comedy is bound to “whisk up” some laughter.