No this doesn’t have anything to do with anime, but hear me out folks. Often I talk about what I really think of when I hear the term “Slice of Life” and often find that few films, anime or other media really live up to my criteria, but as I sit here tonight having just gotten a chance to see the movie Rocky Balboa, I can’t help but have a smile on my face while I think to myself, “This is some good character drama”.
Rocky Balboa is a story about the characters in a way that the franchise hasn’t been able to capture quite right since the very first movie all those years ago. It picks up in modern times, roughly 17-18 years after the events of Rocky V and everyone has it pretty tough. Rocky having lost Adrian to cancer is trying to move forward in his life and feels he just isn’t capable of doing it, Paulie is about to be given the pink slip in his job and lives a life of regret over how badly he treated Adrian and even his best friend Rocky, Rocky’s son Robert feels he’s never managed to live life for himself and feels he’s always going to be living in the shadow of his father’s legacy, Little Marie (a character from the first movie who is all grown up now) is struggling with her son who is a good kid, but just needs a little guidance and something to do in life, said son is struggling for a father figure, and the heavyweight champion of the world (and Rocky’s opponent in the movie) Mason “The Line” Dixon is trying to prove he is a true champion, but is frustrated in finding himself ridiculed for never having fought a real tough opponent after claiming the title.
All the characters are basically decent people who have fallen on tough times and at first we watch them trying to cope with their problems and not getting anywhere or moving forward. Soon that classic spark is reginited in Rocky by a computer simulated matchup that pits him against Mason Dixon in his prime and has him win by knockout. Mason is disappointed at this and Rocky is thinking of heading back into boxing to try and recapture his peak in life in the hopes of regaining what it takes to move forward. There are quite a few good character sideplots that come up such as Rocky taking Marie’s son Steps under his wing and giving him a father figure and a job at his restaurant (aptly named Adrian’s in memory of Rocky’s beloved wife), Rocky getting to know Marie a little and giving her some comfort in her tough life as a single mother, Paulie finally managing to put aside his feelings of guilt over having mistreated Adrian all those years and realizing that she forgave him and Rocky giving his son some straight up advice about learning to take the beating that life gives you, but having the strength to move forward. All of Rocky’s good deeds in the movie eventually help to pull people to his side and give him the strength to train up and face the odds one last time and prove to himself he still matters in the grand scheme of things.
Now one could easily argue that it’s ridiculous that Rocky could stand a chance against a fighter in his prime, but that’s not what this movie is about, it’s about spirit and heart and the will to make things happen. Plus this needs to happen in order to give Mason some resolution as well and it just feels right in the grand scheme of things. So Rocky ends up going into the fight and in a manner that mirrors the events of the movie he goes the distance. Mason wins by decision and proves once and for all that he does indeed have the heart of a champion in that he can go the distance against a fighter who gave it his all and still come out standing, and Rocky also proves that he can still take a beating and come out standing as well.
At the end of the movie everyone seems like they are ready to move forward in their lives and that they’ve recaptured a little bit of the peak of their life and found the path to what they are looking for. Where that path leads is up to them, as that’s life. That’s what this movie was about to me, one last slice of Rocky’s life that manages to do what the rather poor and shallow Rocky V didn’t and give the classic saga a satisfying conclusion that means something to both the viewers and the characters. And really it just was a satisfying watch much to my surprise. I can’t believe it, but I’ve been inspired by Rocky a little here. When previously I mocked the idea of a new movie (much like the characters in the movie mock Rocky for trying to get back into the ring at his age) I never thought I would come to enjoy it so much, but initially I had missed the point of what the movie was trying to prove. All I can say is I am glad I gave the movie a chance and got to see some Good Slice of Life.