RUSH Movie Review
By Victoria Alexander, Film Critic
Las Vegas Informer
Howard chose the wrong race car driver. Thanks to Hemsworth’s natural, easy-going charisma, it is an almost sexy movie with flashes of the lead character’s flaws.
Everything about “RUSH” is surprising. Who would have thought that Ron Howard would even want to direct this movie? Even though gorgeous Chris Hemsworth is visually a perfect stand-in for race car driver James Hunt, Howard does not have a history delivering sexy movies. In spite of himself, Howard has made a modestly sexy movie, thanks to Hemsworth natural, easy-going charisma. Let’s face it, “A BEAUTIFUL MIND” was not sexy. “FROST/NIXON”? However, a friend reminds me: “What about the Don Ameche-Wilford Brimley homoerotic subtext in Howard’s 1985 “COCOON”?
Okay. That’s one sexy Ron Howard movie out of 35.
How come Howard didn’t get Michael Fassbender to star as Formula One champion, Austrian Niki Lauda, with Chris Hemsworth co-starring as Lauda’s race car rival James Hunt? Lauda has the better dramatic story. While Daniel Bruhl is perfect as the rat-faced (Hunt’s mocking nickname for Lauda), undiagnosed Asperger-like champion, Fassbender would have added a sexual dynamic to the relationship between the two competitive drivers. Considering the phallic symbolism of race cars, speed, competition and the aura of death, it really is a sport oozing sensuality.
British race car driver Hunt is full of life and vitality. He’s big, he’s beautiful. He’s kind-of a ladies’ man. (See below for the real story.) There is no science behind his driving. He calculates nothing. Hunt only thinks about driving really fast and beating whoever comes up next to him on the track. Lauda should have been a mathematician, statistician, or a futures trader. He’s all about the odds and precision. Lauda knows exactly the percentage of danger in every move he makes on the track.
In 1973 Hunt enters Formula One. He meets Lauda and does what will become a feature of his driving notoriety – he nearly gets them both killed by pulling a dangerous stunt. After the race, heated words are exchanged between the two drivers. Hunt starts with the insults (calling Lauda “rat-faced”) and a true rivalry is made. There was no need for public relations companies to set this up
Hunt’s devil-may-care attitude on the track infuriates Lauda. And it should, since Hunt’s driving could kill not only himself but another driver.
This is not a movie glorifying race car driving. Not only is it dangerous but people die every year.
The screenplay by Peter Morgan is exceptional considering how big Hunt’s life was. Morgan hits all the important points of the rivalry. Hunt’s first race win in 1976, at the fourth race of the season, at the Spanish Grand Prix, resulted in disqualification for driving a car adjudged to be 1.8 cm too wide. The win was later reinstated upon appeal, but it set the tone for an extraordinarily volatile season.
At the British Grand Prix, Hunt was involved in a first corner incident on the first lap with Lauda which led to the race being stopped and restarted. Then there was Lauda’s injuries in a near-fatal accident at the German Grand Prix. His horrific burns and internal injuries did not stop him from racing and Lauda returned six weeks later for the Japan Grand Prix. And this was another amazing race with difficulties that, when Lauda accessed the course, felt the risks were too high, and he left the race, thus allowing Hunt to take the championship.
Lauda ended his racing career after being the F1 champion three times. Hunt won the Formula One World Championship in 1976 and retired from driving halfway through the 1979 season.
Watching “RUSH,” your first thought is going to be: “This is a Ron Howard film?” With a great production team led by Mark Digby, 15 producers (according to imdb.com),cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, and film editors Daniel P. Hanley and Mike Hill supporting him, “RUSH” is a good, thrilling movie.
Clint Howard, who has appeared in 17 of Ron Howard’s movies, is not in “RUSH.”
What happened to Lauda at the Germany Grand Prix was devastating and his brutal recovery makes for a fascinating story. But “RUSH” is not his story. Hunt becomes champion and then stops racing to enjoy his triumph and enjoy his celebrity status – or were there other factors?
Like I said, Howard has made a movie that has a lot going for it: glamour, great story, Hemsworth, and great racing. And while he could not sanitize Hunt’s bad behavior he certainly cooled down his womanizing. Hunt was notorious. For the Japan Grand Prix he spent the two weeks leading up to the race on a round-the-clock alcohol, cannabis and cocaine binge. And he bedded 33 British Airways hostesses and countless young Japanese fans during his stay in Tokyo. Hunt took women whenever and wherever he could and slept with more than 5,000 in his lifetime. Hunt would often have sex minutes before climbing into the cockpit.
In the photo: the real Lauda and Hunt
Hunt’s marriage to Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde) is also sanitized. Not shown in “RUSH,” the marriage was a major mistake and Hunt regretted it. As the Daily Mail U.K. reported: “The marriage dragged on for another eight months as Suzy looked for a new partner. Hunt knew he had to get out and prayed for a miracle. That miracle arrived in the shape of Richard Burton, who was then Britain’s most famous actor. At the end of December 1975, with their 14-month marriage in pieces, Hunt and Suzy Miller went to Gstaad in Switzerland for Christmas. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were also staying there.”
In the photo: the real James Hunt. Commenting on Hunt’s womanizing, Stirling Moss, who used to carouse with Hunt in Monte Carlo before he was married, said: ‘If you looked like James Hunt, what would you have done?’
“Suzy knew she needed another husband and Hunt was delighted his wife had found Richard Burton. The two men immediately spoke on the telephone to arrange what they called the ‘transfer’ of Suzy. Burton offered to pay Hunt’s divorce settlement to Suzy: $1 million. Suzy effectively, had been sold to Burton by Hunt for $1 million and both were satisfied with the transaction. In June 1976, the divorces of Taylor and Burton and Hunt and Miller were formalized in Port Au Prince, the capital of Haiti, in the Caribbean. On August 21, Suzy and Burton were married in Virginia.”
Read the entire article here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1320323/Formula-1-champion-James-Hunt-slept-33-BA-air-stewardesses-race.html#ixzz2eu6b4LRz.
My weekly column, “The Devil’s Hammer,” is posted every Monday. The Devil’s Hammer on FTB. If you would like to be included on my private distribution list for a weekly preview, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email. You can contact Victoria directly at email@example.com.