Mask – the Movie

No, not “The Mask” with Jim Carrey, but “Mask” with Cher and Eric Stoltz, made in 1985. I was flipping through the channels the other day and came upon this movie right at the beginning. I had seen it before, when it came out, but not since then.

This is a wonderful movie, based on a true story, of a teenager with a very rare disease. Excessive calcium deposits on his skull cause his face to be greatly deformed, giving him the look of wearing a grotesque mask. The deposits do not only happen on the outside of his skull, but also inside, causing headaches and unimaginable damage possibly to the brain.

When we first see him we are totally shocked. We cannot imagine how a person can possibly go through life with this face. Teenagers are uptight about going to school with a pimple. This seems impossible.

The boy’s name is Rocky Dennis (Eric Stoltz) and his mom is Rusty Dennis (Cher). As soon as Rocky starts talking we recognize that he is an extremely well-adjusted teenager who has learned to deal with his handicap superbly. When his mom enrolls him in junior high school, and the principal tries to tell her that Rocky should be going to a “special” school, she shows what she is made of and the principal never thinks of Rocky the same way again.

Rocky has a deep effect on everyone he meets and he changes lives. His mother is a character, without an apparent job, hanging out with a biker gang, sleeping with a different guy every night, using drugs and worrying her teenage son. “Mom, all you want to do is get high and get laid!” he complains at one point. Rocky is the responsible person in this family.

Within minutes of getting to know him, we like him, and like everyone else around him, we only see the brilliance, the inner beauty and the  indomitable spirit of  the boy, and we really don’t see his handicap anymore.

But how will he deal with girls? After all, he has all the hormones of a healthy teenager.

This is an old movie. If you have seen it once, see it again. Every minute is worth it. If you have not, go and get it. It’s timeless.

Rating: ****

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