THE GOLDEN ARM – Review by Carol Cling

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The Man With the Golden Arm — the 1955 drama with Frank Sinatra as a trying-to-kick-the-habit junkie — was serious business.

The women of Golden Arm are anything but.

A raucous romp that premiered at last year’s pandemic-struck SXSW Festival, Golden Arm plays like a mash-up of comedic variations.

Among them: the buddy comedy, the fish-out-of-water comedy, the I-am-woman-hear-me-roar comedy, the … well, you get the idea.

It’s as if the filmmakers dumped the cinematic ingredients into a kitchen mixer and set it for high-speed whipping.

The mixer analogy seems appropriate, considering Golden Arm’s title character: Melanie (Mary Holland), a beleaguered small-town baker whose life has become an oven full of scorched scones.

Her marriage has ended (once we meet her ex, we understand why) and her financial bottom line couldn’t be more subterranean.

Good thing her college BFF, walking-id trucker Danny (Betsy Sodaro) turns up with an offer Mel can’t refuse: a get-away-from-it-all road trip.

Naturally, Danny has an ulterior motive: revenge.

A gung-ho competitive arm-wrestler, Danny would be contending for the $15,000 championship title. If only her biggest rival (and we do mean big — not to mention mean), “Bonecrusher” Brenda (Olivia Stambouliah), hadn’t injured Danny so she couldn’t compete.

But Danny knows something “Bonecrusher” doesn’t: Mel happens to be a “golden arm” — a woman who’s “weak, ineffectual, soft, a jellyfish, but she has got one powerful (expletive deleted) arm.”

Thus begins an odyssey of comedy montages, from training (under the tutelage of veteran Big Sexy, alias Dot-Marie Jones) to trying on costumes (all the better to find an intimidating alter ego, my dears) to the competition itself.

No championship belts will be awarded for guessing the outcome of this saga. After all, we know the way by heart — and can practically recite the trash-talk dialogue along with the characters.

Working from a raunchy, jokey script by Ann Marie Allison and Jenna Milly, director Maureen Bharoocha emphasizes the movie’s frenetic, in-your-face overkill.

More’s the pity, because the few times Golden Arm slows down — which isn’t nearly often enough — there’s a welcome chance to savor the central duo’s comedic rapport.

As when Mel and Danny avow their undying friendship: “You’re the Al Pacino to my Robert De Niro.” Complete with imitations — and no bone crushing required.

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Carol Cling

Carol Cling served as the Las Vegas Review-Journal's film critic for more than 30 years, reviewing movies and covering movie and TV production in Las Vegas, from Casino to CSI. An honors graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, she also has studied film at the American Film Institute and the BBC