“A man who’s living in a world that’s not made for him.”
There’s something to be said for the moniker by which we all recall the appropriately billed “8th Wonder of the World.” He was Andre, he was a giant, and this mix of uncommon humanity and illogical myth evolved into an indelible presence in the hall of infamy and legend. As a straight up documentary featuring some laudably slavish editing and construction, Andre the Giant explores its three central facets – unevenly so, detouring around integral life moments which I wish had been given more time and love – all while it harmonizes one man’s brute strength and internal fragility into one great, powerful chorus of an existence.
It’s hard, if not impossible, to picture André Roussimoff as a child. Growing up in the small town of Moliens, France, he was an ordinary kid with a taste for a life lived differently. Then he kept getting taller, and bigger, and more monstrous by the day. We later learn that Andre’s gigantism was the product of acromegaly – a health issue of excessive growth hormone production which caused him great pain, both physically and mentally – and was a feature which defined both Andre’s robust exterior and his soft heart. This gentle giant had his demons and he wasn’t afraid to make his unquestionable strength known when the moment called for his command, but as the film informs us, more than anything, this indescribable figure grew tired of the double-take looks and the cautious whispers that trailed his every step. He was made to stand out but all he wanted to do was fit in. In this respect, Andre the Giant perfectly captures the essence of its central figure’s tragic irony.
There’s a beautiful moment of archived footage where Andre tells us something I’ve never actually thought about before. They make books for the blind, subtitles and an entire language for the deaf, wheelchairs for the disabled, yet Andre was forced to endure a life so uncomfortably handicapped as a big, happy beast with no clear compromise. Contrary to that sentiment, and in a quietly heartbreaking moment, we’re told that during transcontinental flights he was forced to piss/shit in a bucket behind a sheet. Why’s that you ask? Because he didn’t fit in the restroom, let alone in a single chair. Andre the Giant spends too much time indulging in the easy gratification of mythologizing its subject and too little time probing these intriguingly simple yet thoroughly complex and sad methods of adaptation that effectively rendered such a big human so insecure and small. There’s a dark psychological element to this man’s story that’s teased yet never quite fully makes its way on-screen.
I never saw Andre the Giant wrestle. I didn’t see his many traveling shows, any of his bouts in the ring, nor his final Wrestlemania showdown with Hulk Hogan. But I had always heard of him, and true to his word of mouth and mythic status, whenever kids thought big – or when adults, in a childlike state, were willing to suspend their belief – the 7’4″, 450+ pound man became a literal embodiment of the imagination. A character we’d read about in fiction. Someone who Jack had climbed up a beanstalk to battle. A Gulliver with no travels and no added satire. Andre the Giant, through comedy and conjecture and drama, tells the real life story of a human being who was forced to live inside of a pre-written fairy tale in order to be understood and welcomed by a world which couldn’t stop looking up at him in wonder and awe. Thankfully we now have a tiny glimpse at his soul.
“He was a living manifestation of our childhood dreams.”
Rating: 4 out of 5