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Film / Mask (1985)

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Cher and Eric Stoltz as Rusty and Rocky Dennis.

"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

Mask is a 1985 drama film directed by Peter Bogdanovich, starring Eric Stoltz, Cher, and Sam Elliott.

The film is based on the true story of Rocky Dennis (Stoltz), a kid who was born with lionitis and suffered a lot for this despite his mother Florence "Rusty" Dennis (Cher) always trying to give him a normal life.

If you're looking for the animated series M.A.S.K. (which premiered the same year this movie came out), look here. If you're looking for the Jim Carrey movie The Mask, look here.


Mask provides examples of:

  • As You Know...: Dr. Vinton telling Rusty about Rocky's condition, though it's justified in the fact he's a newcomer to Rocky's case, and wants to assert himself.
  • Beast and Beauty: Rocky has a disorder which causes his skull to be very enlarged and twisted, looking like a mask. He falls in love with blind girl Diana Adams, who he met at a summer camp for disabled teenagers. He teaches her how to "see" colors by using various objects to represent them. She still stays with him even after she feels his face and "sees" how deformed he is.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: While Rocky normally doesn't get too upset with people noticing his obvious deformity, he finally snaps after being forced to attend a school where none of his friends go and is teased by another student.
  • Biker Babe: Rusty.
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  • Blind and the Beast: The main character has a degenerative disease which has greatly disfigured his face, but this doesn't stop him from finding romance with a blind girl during a summer camp job.
  • Deadpan Snarker: One of Rocky's many unique features is his clever wit.
    • Rusty can be like this too; when the school principal suggests he go to a school that could serve his "special needs", to which Rusty asks if the school teaches English, math, history, and science, and when the principal says yes, responds, "Those are his needs." The principal suggests talking to Rocky's father, and Rusty snarks back "Maybe you should talk to the pope, you'll have an easier time finding him."
  • Disabled Love Interest: The blind Diana, played by Laura Dern.
  • Downer Ending: Rocky dies all of a sudden, leading Rusty to have a Heroic Breakdown.
  • Dramatic Irony: Dr. Vinton claims Rocky might not live for more than six months.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The real Rocky Dennis died at age 16, meaning that his film incarnation isn't going to fare much better.
  • The Grotesque: Rocky, a gentle boy who unfortunately has a horribly disfigured skull.
  • Heroic Breakdown: Rusty goes through one when she realizes that her son died in his sleep.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Rocky and his best friend, Ben. Unfortunately, their relationship ends on a bitter note when Ben moves back to Michigan for good, ultimately ending a planned motorcycle trip through Europe, they had planned for the past year.
  • Historical Beauty Update: While the real Florence "Rusty" Tullis wasn't unattractive, Cher is more attractive than the real Tullis was. And while Eric Stoltz's facial prosthetic is fairly gruesome, he doesn't look quite as disfigured as the real life Rocky Dennis did.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Rusty brought one to Rocky named Lorrie, who's nothing but nice to him.
  • Nice Guy: Rocky is an incredibly sweet boy with a good sense of humor. He's even capable of poking fun at himself at times.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Rusty's real name is Florence, but only her mother calls her that. In addition, Rocky's name is Roy, but no one calls him that.
  • Parental Substitute: Rusty's biker boyfriend, Gar, isn't Rocky's biological father, but he still serves the role as a caring father figure for him.
  • Parents as People: Rusty clearly loves her son and fights tooth and nail to provide him with a normal life, but she has her own personal issues to deal with, such as her history of drug abuse, and a troubled relationship with her father, Rocky's grandfather.
  • Passed in Their Sleep: How Rocky dies.
  • Professional Sex Ed: Subverted.
  • Tranquil Fury: One of the ways Gar serves as a Parental Substitute for Rocky is by standing up for him. For example, when they go to a carnival, Rocky and Ben try to go on the bumper car ride, but when the ticket taker won't take Rocky's ticket, Gar gives him a Death Glare and tells him in a low but threatening voice, "Take (Rocky's) the ticket".
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Every time something good happens with Rocky.

Alternative Title(s): Mask


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