Becoming Bulletproof (2015) Movie Review: “Translating the Human Experience”

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: whenever A.J. makes your heart burst with positivity.

Take a Drink: for the number of times one cast member has issued marriage proposals.

Do a Shot: because inclusion matters.

Community Review

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1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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Movie Review

By: Bill Arceneaux (A Toast) –

It’s very rare that a film – be it narrative or documentary – will, at some point in its runtime, straight up state its purpose in crystal clear poignant fashion. Usually, the thesis is hidden in the subtext or laid bare obnoxiously. Hardly ever will it be woven well into the fabric of the story, being a reason of existence for the project and the medium as a whole. To hit that note would be to achieve a solemn level of self-awareness and a moment of enlightenment delivered to the audience on a platter.

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Why is this important? Can’t a film just be either or none of the above? Sure, it can be anything. But, for the viewers to give themselves completely to a movie, we must relate to and understand it deeply. I’m making this sound like a mountain to climb, but it’s really just going for some kind of truth – whether baseline or heightened – that we can feel in our guts.

This is what I look for in film. This is what we should all look for in film.

A Toast

I’m so glad to have found Becoming Bulletproof. For starters, it’s a documentary about the joy of making and watching movies, a subject which I love to see expressed on screen. It’s also a story of friendship and community, where the mantra “it takes a village” is most certainly floating above everyone’s heads. Finally, it’s about (wait for it…) relating to and understanding others, treating each other with kindness, respect and dignity.

Now, given the above, you’d think the schmaltz levels would be off the charts. Hippies grabbing tissue boxes to wipe away their tears, basically. Well, no. There is no naivete, no sappiness, or even a focused political ideology – though one could be formed from watching this. It’s just filmmakers and actors getting together to make art, have fun, and form bonds.

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Nowhere near this movie

Bulletproof follows the team at Zeno Mountain Farm as they make their annual project – this time, a Western. They bring about a diverse group of people with disabilities from across the country, assign roles, and start shooting. Through a few subjects – like the wonderfully talented A.J. (who has cerebral palsy) – we come to connect and get a sense of the difficulties they face at home, whether it be lack of services or lack of empathy.

Empathy, not pity. This is very important. Throughout the production, we get up close with everybody, learning their stories, their desires, and about their minds. Some are eccentric, like the man who has asked multiple women to marry him in the past. Some are introspective and thoughtful, like A.J. All of them, no matter their different traits and quirks, share a love for creativity, a love for movies, and a love for group activity. Who couldn’t relate? Who couldn’t empathize? Why look down and pity?

The mother of one of the actors said that, when her son was born, doctors advised sending him to an institution, as he’d be a vegetable for life. She said, “I’m a vegetarian”. Years later and grown up, he’s a charismatic young man. It’s never thrown in our faces how un-prejudicial the people leading the project are, as this would be counterproductive to the mission of the film. It’s not about shaming those with preconceived notions or misinformed mindsets, but rather showing them how much alike we all are. To be mean about it would be dour, and everything good here would sink.

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Verdict

Does Becoming Bulletproof feature a sequence of astounding enlightenment? Yes. When asked about acting, A.J. defines his craft as “translating the human experience”. I smiled greatly at this. Perfect summation. Of the movie, of the project, of the effort to change minds and mend hearts.

Profound, smart, funny and, of most importance, true.

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Visit becomingbulletproofmovie.com to learn about hosting a screening and about Zeno Mountain Farm.

About Bill Arceneaux

Independent film critic from New Orleans and member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA).

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