At home yesterday I cracked out some of my old Andy Gibb LPs. I wanted to hear Shadow Dancing again which despite being the biggest hit of 1978 in the US, you hardly hear on the radio anymore. What a great song, what perfect pop albums and as is always the case with Andy, listening to him is bittersweet.
This time though, I realised I’d just watched Andy’s life on the big screen without even knowing it. A few days earlier I went and saw the Mickey Rourke film The Wrestler, not because I like professional wrestling (in reality, I can’t stand it), but because something in the tale of someone who had everything and lost it intrigued me. It could have been a cliched story of “one final fight” and redemption against the odds, but it wasn’t. I left the cinema realising that it was that most un-Hollywood of stories: a tale where dreams don’t come true.
Then came the Andy Gibb listening session. Everyone knows I’m a huge Bee Gees fan and the Bee Gees younger brother was also, for a short time, a superstar in his own right. He sold 20 million records, is still the only solo artist to have his first three songs go to number one and had the golden Gibb looks. But he also had astonishing self-doubt, depression and a rampant cocaine addiction that bankrupted him. He had a young wife he left and a daughter he never saw. And yet it was clear he was a sweet, gentle and kind man.
In The Wrestler and Mickey Rourke’s portrayal of the fictitious Randy “The Ram” all these factors and plot-lines are essentially the same as in Andy’s life: fame at a young age, collossal success, failed marriage, estranged daughter, drug addiction, volatile love affair, bankruptcy and death at a young age while on the verge of a comeback.
Through it all, both Andy Gibb and Rourke’s character were good people who couldn’t face life and the hand they’d been dealt. They caused so much pain to the ones they loved, but even at their lowest would show kindness, empathy, self-deprecation and respect. The major difference, and it’s a big one in fairness to the Gibb family, is that as a family they did all they could to help Andy, right until the very end.
More-so than of Mickey Rourke himself (as has been frequently said), The Wrestler really could be the story of Andy Gibb and as such is a devastating film of real beauty. Luckily we do know that dreams can come true and evidence is all around if we look hard enough. Films like this remind me to be all the more appreciative of that fact.