It’s forty-two pounds of polished granite, beveled on the belly and a handle a human being can hold. And it may have no practical purpose in itself but it is a repository of human possibility and if it’s handled just right, it will exact a kind of poetry.
Men With Brooms
Men With Brooms is a challenging film. Not in the sense that it raises questions, or provokes thought, but rather that it angers and disappoints many people. Filmmakers in Canada question how this film received so much support from funding sources when theirs do not. Curling fans may wonder how the first big curling movie managed to mess up some details, and to use an absurd event (exploding rocks) as a climax. But it is at that point that I, as a former competitive curler and longtime fan, find the most endearing quality of the film. Curling is a goofy, unusual and strange sport. Can anyone honestly say that an activity that involves granite rocks, brooms, circles on ice, and a high level of friendly camaraderie (even at the highest competitive level) is anything but funny? Certainly many people take curling seriously, even I did at one time, but ultimately it is a fun diversion from the seriousness of life. I have known people who lost the ability to truly enjoy the game, yet even they would drink you under the table if you beat them and be laughing by the end of the evening. So it seems fitting that the first film about the sport would be so odd, so cheesy, and so absurd that no one would really know what to think about it.
As a side note, some filming took place at a club I played at many times as a youth. My junior team won the Ross Macdonald junior bonspiel at the Glanford Curling Club every time we entered it. We considered it a birthright to eat our pizza, pick our prizes and celebrate on one weekend in Mount Hope every year. So to see Paul Gross et al. sliding out of those hacks was a nostalgia trip for me, even though when the film was made I was still playing in the area. The “Golden Broom” championship is considered a big deal to the characters in the movie, but I think the film acknowledges that it really isn’t as big as it’s made out to be. Much like the Ross Macdonald, the “Golden Broom” is largest in the minds of the players and the local community. Beyond that only a handful of people would really care. Much like Slap Shot, Men With Brooms is capturing an undercurrent of the popular sports landscape. The ridiculous outfits of the Butte team, and the goofy intonations of the announcer emphasize this fact.
Why am I devoting a thousand words to a movie so long after it came out? Well for one I just saw it on TV again, and I think after a number of viewings I finally get what the film means to me as a curler, fan, and someone who reflects on Canadian culture. Better sports movies have been made on everything from football to hockey to bowling. Apparently there has even been a better curling movie made in Japan. But I think if you want to know about what curling is, you should ask the people who play it most (over 1 million players a year) and play it best (more championships than are worth mentioning). I am hopeful there will be another curling movie and that it will capture the essence of the tradition, passion, and glory of the sport. It will get the small details right, and dispose of cheap laughs, silly sub plots, and drug references. Until then we are left with Men With Brooms, which, upon further inspection, represents many of the things that makes curling unique. People wearing ugly sweaters and weird track suits, brooms on ice, banging cowbells and jingling bells, the Brier Patch, and “good curling.” above all else it represents the experience of the average curler, who heads to the rink once a week to meet friends, engage in playful banter, throw a few rocks, and hit the lounge afterward. A curling game lasts two hours, but a curling evening lasts many more. That is the heart of the sport, and I think, the heart of this movie. Whether it was the intention of the filmmakers or not is irrelevant. I don’t think they could’ve tackled curling in Canada without stumbling into an absurd and beautiful world.