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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 American drama film directed by Peter Bogdanovich, starring Eric Stoltz, Cher, Sam Elliott, Estelle Getty, Richard Dysart, and Laura Dern. The film is based on the true story of Roy L. "Rocky" Dennis, a kid who was born with lionitis and suffered a lot for this in spite of his mother, Florence "Rusty" Dennis, always striving to give him a normal life.

If you're looking for the animated series M.A.S.K. (which premiered in 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.
  • Berserk Button: Do not disrespect, insult, or make fun of Rocky in front of Bulldozer or Gar. Just don't. Or Rusty, for that matter.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Downer Ending: Rocky dies all of a sudden, leading Rusty to have a Heroic BSoD.
  • 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 BSoD: 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.
  • Mama Bear: Rusty may be a drug addict, but she loves Rocky and is fiercely protective of him. Gar tells Rocky about how when Rocky was little, he drove Rusty and Rocky to a place where they got their picture taken, and he fell in love with Rusty after seeing the way she was looking at Rocky as they were being photographed.
  • 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.
  • So Proud of You: Bulldozer says this to Rocky after he's made it through the entire school year. It's even more moving because, with his stutter, it takes him a while to say this.
  • The Speechless: Bulldozer may seem this way at first, as he doesn't say anything throughout most of the movie, but then it turns out he can speak, just with a bad stutter (see So Proud of You above).
  • Title Drop: Both times Rocky goes to a new school, kids nearby say, "Why don't you take off your mask?" The first time, Rocky shrugs it off (and Bulldozer, who's nearby, gets angry enough for him), but the second time, he snaps (see Beware the Nice Ones above).
  • Tragically Disabled Love Interest: The blind Diana, played by Laura Dern. Her blindness (she is in a summer camp for disabled kids) is played for drama, as she cannot see Rocky's features but he does let her feel his face.
  • 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