Review: ‘Golden Arm’

Mary Holland Proves Her Worth In The Charming Arm Wrestling Comedy

After years of bit parts and commercials, Mary Holland is having a moment. After her scene-stealing turn in November’s Happiest Season, which she co-wrote with Clea DuVall, she is now leading a movie of her own. In the new arm-wrestling comedy, Golden Arm, Holland joins character actors Betsy Sodaro, Olivia Stambouliah, Eugene Cordero, Dot-Marie Jones, and Ron Funches in a charming feminist take on Over The Top.

Holland plays Melanie, a struggling baker who is fresh out of a divorce and struggling to find herself when an old college friend Danny (Betsy Sodaro, Disjointed) waltzed back into her life, begging for a road trip. Like all old friends, Danny has a motive. An avid arm wrestler, Danny wants revenge against Brenda “the Bone Crusher” (Olivia Stambouliah) and wants to utilize Melanie’s “golden arm” to get it. The two then embark on a road trip across the Midwest, training and wrestling along the way, becoming closer together.

After playing a zany and quirky character in Happiest Season, Holland uses Golden Arm to prove that she is leading lady material. Funny yet understated with oodles of charm, Holland makes a character you’ve seen before seem compelling. Her odd couple dynamic with Sodaro’s Danny propels the movie forward, each the perfect foil of the other. Sordaro plays the messy-party-girl-slob she is known for, however gives herself space to do some emotional heavy lifting.

In classic 80s movie fashion there is a heavy duty training sequence, complete with the retired disgruntled coach. Playing the perfectly is Dot-Marie Jones. Though her Big Sexy is only in the movie 20 minutes max, Jones delivers every line with engaging passion. Funny and clearly just happy to be there, she proves that though she may be known for playing coaches and mentors, that she is damn good at it. By the time we leave Bug Sexy’s strip club, you want her to follow you around your everyday life and scream inspirational advice at you.

Though film relies heavily on niche sports films of the late 80s and 90s, Golden Arm uses nostalgia to its advantage. Though a modern piece, hair features heavily throughout, used as characterization. Director Maureen Bharoocha, a long time segment director for Jimmy Kimmel Live!, makes little choices like this blend together into one cohesive piece. The film may be small but with strong direction, charming performances, and a well written script by Ann Marie Allison and Jenna Milly, Golden Arm is mighty.

Ultimately if you are looking for a fun watch  this weekend, full of girl-power that constantly passes the Bechdel test, Golden Arm is the arm wrestling movie you’ve been missing.

Golden Arm is playing in theaters and available on VOD. Watch the trailer below.

'Golden Arm'
A D.C area native, Cortland has been interested in media since birth. Taking film classes in high school and watching the classics with family instilled a love of film in Cortland’s formative years. Before graduating with a degree in English and minoring in Film Study from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, Cortland ran the college’s radio station, where she frequently reviewed films on air. She then wrote for another D.C area publication before landing at Punch Drunk Critics. Aside from writing and interviewing, she enjoys podcasts, knitting, and talking about representation in media.