You Cannot Kill David Arquette (2020) – documentary – David Darg & Price James – USA – 91 minutes – watch here
Most of you will recognise David Arquette as goofball Dewey Riley in the Scream franchise, the movies that made him famous worldwide while also – allegedly – causing him to be type-cast from 1996 onwards.
That said, another reason why Arquette’s career didn’t progress as his early promise showed is something that happened in the year 2000: through a marketing gimmick to promote his upcoming flick Ready to Rumble, Arquette entered the world of wrestling and won the title of World Champion, undeservingly. As a result, his career, life and mental state permanently changed.
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My review is also available on IMDb – You Cannot Kill David Arquette (2020)
The documentary on David Arquette and his obsession with wrestling
As mentioned above, David Arquette’s undeserved wrestling champion title was the inciting incident as well as the starting point of You Cannot Kill David Arquette, a documentary/character study that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
After a brief but intense look into Arquette’s alcoholism and mental issues, this film describes the actor’s failing career: upon his show in the year 2000, in fact, Hollywood directors stopped taking Arquette seriously, causing his once-promising career to kind of end abruptly. At the same time, the wrestling community (both fans and athletes) began to despise Arquette as he made a mockery of their favourite “sport”. You Cannot Kill David Arquette, however, is mostly a redeeming story, as Arquette – who is really in love with and passionate about wrestling – decided to start training again (at the age of 46) to become a professional wrestler and to earn the respect from a world that truly hated him.
Balanced mix of disturbing and funny
You Cannot Kill David Arquette is not just the ego-trip of David Arquette, who’s both the main character and one of the executive producers of this movie. Instead, the film works as a bitter-sweet look into the actor’s redeeming arc as he fights against his inner demons to truly embrace his love for wrestling. Due to Arquette’s personality and the presence of some quirky characters in the documentary, You Cannot Kill David Arquette features quite a few chuckle-worthy moments that are delivered in a very dry, matter-of-fact manner.
However, most of the documentary is pretty dour and disturbing, although it always points at a ray of hope, keeping the watching experience from being a complete depressing trip. In fact, to earn the respect of his fellow wrestlers, Arquette goes on the ring against people who hate him and, therefore, severely beat and injure him: this documentary features tons of disturbing and bloody sequences where Arquette gets cut, bleeds profusely, is beaten up relentlessly and so on. The most uncomfortable sequences to watch, though, are the ones that have more to do with the actor’s psyche: seeing him dealing with panic attacks, losses of control, alcohol-fuelled break-downs is truly painful to watch and makes you sympathise with this man’s struggles.
In this respect, You Cannot Kill David Arquette could’ve been even more impactful if more stress was put on his family dynamics. In fact, one fair criticism towards the film is that the relationship between David and his ex-wife (Courtney Cox), current wife (Christina McLarty), kids and sister (Patricia Arquette) is only briefly touched upon, depriving the viewer of a deeper understanding of what personal consequences his choices have and had in the past.
Instead, the documentary is presented with a flashy style that resembles the way wrestlers’ introductions are edited together. On the one hand, this directorial choice fits the themes of the film and also improves its pacing; on the other, presenting the documentary in this manner takes away from the drama for two main reason. The first one is that such style makes for short sequences, therefore the emotional gut-punch rarely reaches the climax; the second one is that the music is often overbearing, obnoxious and in conflict with the character study approach of the story.
Despite some flaws in its presentation, including a final 3-minute-long homage to Luke Perry (well-deserved, but not very fitting), You Cannot Kill David Arquette is probably the best documentary of 2020 (so far) and one of the best movies of the year. It’s very fast-paced and entertaining, juggling between disturbing moments and ideas, and light-hearted, humorous bits.
The topic chosen for the film is very original and the filmmakers/documentarists portrayed it very well, focusing on some of the most important details they could’ve highlighted. Some scenes are truly anxiety-inducing and hard-to-watch, yet the documentary as a whole is extremely enjoyable and begs to be watched multiple times simply for the high entertainment value it holds.
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