You Cannot Kill David Arquette: Center of the Ring, by Tyler Smith
When a well-known celebrity allows a film crew to document their endeavors, it’s hard not to see the resulting documentary as little more than a vanity project. Why else would they allow such unfettered access if not to enhance their public persona? I certainly tend to narrow my eyes whenever I hear of such a documentary, and my heart sinks if I find that it is about somebody whose work I normally enjoy. It’s hard not to look at these types of projects as infomercials for a celebrity’s fame. That may not be altogether fair, but the films themselves usually bear this out.
So when I heard about You Cannot Kill David Arquette, directed by David Darg and Price James, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. This film, about the actor’s attempt to legitimize himself as a professional wrestler, had all the hallmarks of these types of documentaries: interesting, but transparently self-indulgent. And the title, with its self-conscious hyperbole, didn’t help either; it was too reminiscent of the similar Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (you know, the documentary where O’Brien refers to himself as the “least-entitled person you’ll meet in the world”).
While the final film avoids some of the usual pitfalls that have tripped up similar movies, it runs full steam into others, often at the same time. Arquette certainly seems to lack vanity, as he allows himself to be filmed in various states of both physical and emotional punishment. His random arrivals at backyard wrestling shows – where he proceeds to be destroyed by amateur athletes – make him look like a prima donna, condescending to appear at even the humblest of venues (if a person’s backyard can be called that). And the glee with which the amateurs address the camera about Arquette’s arrogance speaks volumes about his standing in the world of wrestling. Surely, this can hardly be called a vanity project, right?
But Arquette is an experienced actor, with an intimate knowledge of the importance of a good narrative. And there is no arc more satisfying than a story of redemption. The inclusion of these scenes of Arquette being humbled at the hands could potentially make the actor-cum-wrestler look bad, were the film to be about his eventual walking away from the sport. Or, if here were to improve, it makes those moments all the more poignant, like the “Before” photo in a weight-loss testimonial.
And improve he does! By the end of the film, Arquette is shown throwing his opponents around in the ring like a real pro, retroactively turning his previous failures into powerful motivators. The film ends triumphantly, and it’s hard not to be excited for Arquette as he has finally achieved legitimacy in the wrestling world. Because this film isn’t merely about how great David Arquette naturally is, but how hard he was willing to work to achieve greatness. This is what separates this documentary from similar films; by the end, nobody can argue that Arquette put in the time and effort. But while that is admirable, it only further solidifies You Cannot Kill David Arquette as little more than an effective, all-access promotional video, extolling the virtues of its product.