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Mask: My Thoughts on Rocky, Rusty and the Gang

Updated on October 18, 2016
Charito1962 profile image

Ms. Charito is a Filipino based in Manila. She has worked as an executive assistant and a journalist. She is a widow with a grown-up son.

I don't like watching sad films, but when I do, it means they were worth it. One such movie that made an impact on me is the 1985 drama Mask, directed by Peter Bogdanovich, and starring Cher and Eric Stoltz (best remembered for his roles in the youth films The Wild Life and Some Kind of Wonderful).

The film is based on the true story of the late Roy Lee "Rocky" Dennis (played by Stoltz), a teenage boy afflicted with a rare bone illness (lionitis) which disfigures his face. Despite his malady, Rocky, a baseball card collector, struggles to fit in with his schoolmates, succeeds in winning a girl, but desperately tries to change the wild ways of his mom, Rusty (played by Cher), whose parents and motorcycle gang are his only family and friends.

When I first saw Rocky, my heart cracked. I asked myself, "What if that were my own son?"

Yet, I admire his determination to live like any normal boy, even excelling in the high school where the principal (played by Ben Piazza) initially advises his mom that he were better off in a special institution suited for his ailment.

These things are good: ice cream and cake, a ride on a Harley, seeing monkeys in the trees, the rain on my tongue, and the sun shining on my face. These things are a drag: dust in my hair, holes in my shoes, no money in my pocket, and the sun shining on my face.

— Rocky Dennis (1961-1978)
The real Rocky Dennis
The real Rocky Dennis | Source

What touches me, too, is the kindness that Rocky's grandparents (played by Richard Dysart and Estelle Getty) show him when they take him to a baseball game. Moreover, it's consoling to watch how a girl (played by Laura Dern) falls in love with Rocky at a summer camp where they meet. (There's a heartbreaking fact about her, though. I won't tell.)

As for Rusty, I'm afraid I look at her with disdain. I dislike the fact that she goes on with her drug addiction and shamelessly brings home a hooker to her son, after he tells her that he opts for surgery so he could go out with girls. In another scene where she argues with Rocky, she takes one of his cards and tears it in half.

Being a mother myself, I'm disappointed in Rusty for behaving as such, considering her son's condition. But my thoughts on her immediately change when – after a dispute with Rocky – she suddenly mellows and warms up to him with maternal affection.

Rocky (Eric Stoltz) and Rusty (Cher) warm up to each other.
Rocky (Eric Stoltz) and Rusty (Cher) warm up to each other. | Source

I also like the character Gar (played by Sam Elliott) – Rusty’s biker-boyfriend – who is a father image to Rocky (Thoughout the film, nothing much is said about Rocky’s real father.). He goes out of his way to take the boy to an amusement park, and he and his biker-friends pitch in to buy Rocky a suit for his school recognition day.

As for the acting, I must credit Cher for delivering a superb performance truly deserving of her Cannes Film Festival Best Actress award.

When I learned that Mask won the Academy Award for Best Makeup, I decided to read up on the life of Rocky Dennis. Stoltz’s makeup, indeed, bears a strong resemblance to the face of the real Rocky.

I watch Mask now and then to draw valuable lessons from it, and share them with others. It's a good movie to make us mature, as it dares us to regard people with abnormalities as mere humans. It's worth keeping the DVD, if only to remind our youngsters that like the Beauty and the Beast tale, true beauty in a human really lies within.

Eric Stoltz (left) before the makeup
Eric Stoltz (left) before the makeup | Source

Here are some clips from the movie:

Principal's office scene with Cher, Eric Stoltz and Ben Piazza

Rocky with the medical staff

About Rocky's health condition

Rocky's first day at school

Rocky talking to hooker Lorrie (Kelly Jo Minter)

Rocky showing his intelligence in a history class

Would you befriend someone with a deformed face?

See results

Here are other Eric Stoltz and Cher films that I enjoyed :

Mask: Director's Cut
Mask: Director's Cut

It’s worth keeping this in the home library.


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  • Charito1962 profile image

    Charito Maranan-Montecillo 2 years ago from Manila, Philippines

    Nice of you to stop by, Ms. Essie! Hope you like the film. Regards.

  • EsJam profile image

    Essie 2 years ago from Southern California

    Since you don't typically like sad movies, the one you did pick was an excellent choice. It gets me every time. I adore what he wrote about 'what is good'....

    Thank you for sharing this insightful hub! It puts things in perspective!

  • Charito1962 profile image

    Charito Maranan-Montecillo 2 years ago from Manila, Philippines

    Hi, Ms. Shauna! Yes, Sam Elliott is a sexy guy, but he's not my type. "Mask" is a sad story, but I admire Rocky for being strong despite his malady. I guess the movie also teaches us parents to be more supportive of our children who have abnormalities.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

    This is one of my favorite movies. I watch it whenever it comes on TV. I don't think I'll ever tire of it. The acting in this film was stellar. I'll admit, another reason I watch it is because I have a huge crush on Sam Elliott. I think he's one of the sexiest, manly men on the planet!

    Seriously, there's so much to learn from this movie. I don't know if I'd be as positive as Rocky if I were in his shoes. He truly loved life and had a very strong spirit. It was so sad when he died.

    Thanks for this review. I enjoyed it and loved the videos.

  • Charito1962 profile image

    Charito Maranan-Montecillo 2 years ago from Manila, Philippines

    Hi, John! Glad you liked the film as much as I did. Thanks for dropping by!

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

    Mask was a wonderful movie and I remember it well. It is one of those movies that you would be lying if you said it didn't affect you. The performances of both Eric Stoltz and Cher are admirable and the makeup really does make him look like the real Rocky. I also loved the music sound track of this movie. Great clips included with this hub. Voted up. p.s. I am fairly certain that Eric Stoltz also acted in "Rob Roy" supporting Liam Neeson (another great movie).

  • PinoyMom profile image

    Shiela Gerona 3 years ago from Philippines

    I haven't heard about this movie before. I will try to look for a copy of this film and watch it.

  • ladyguitarpicker profile image

    stella vadakin 3 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

    Loved the movie and felt like you Cher gave a good performance, but did not like the character she played.

  • SilverLotus1 profile image

    SilverLotus1 3 years ago

    You did a fine review of a great film!

  • Richard1988 profile image

    Richard 3 years ago from Hampshire - England

    This was a brilliant film. Great review :)

  • rainykua profile image

    rainykua 3 years ago

    I know that movie! I saw it on TV when I was very young but I didn't understand what was happening. I had always been curious about the movie. I didn't know that it's based on a true story. I think I would also feel the same way about Rusty. I'm not a mother, but I have a strong dislike for mothers who are not acting like one.

  • yayang0405 lm profile image

    yayang0405 lm 3 years ago

    Nice review. I think I will consider watching it some time.

  • Heidi Vincent profile image

    Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

    Great review, Charito1962! I want to watch the movie now :)

  • LornsA178 profile image

    LornsA178 3 years ago

    I will try looking for this movie in the library, it sounds worth watching.

  • tazzytamar profile image

    Anna 3 years ago from chichester

    This sounds like a wonderful film - heartbreaking, but incredibly moving. I will watch it soon.

  • asereht1970 profile image

    asereht1970 3 years ago

    I haven't had the chance to watch this movie. Hope I can find a copy of this.

  • Charito1962 profile image

    Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

    @julieannbrady: Yes, it does leave a deep impression.

  • profile image

    julieannbrady 3 years ago

    I've watched this movie many times and I still feel the impact of the message every time.