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The Film List Project #9: The Hustler

Here's a thought: If there isn't a guy named Charlie who gets continuously yelled at, is it really a classic Hollywood movie?

This week, I watched the 1961 classic Paul Newman film The Hustler.  I thought I was going to hate it so much, but (spoiler alert) I didn't.

I have to admit, this isn't my kind of movie. Usually, I really hate sports movies because of how similar the plots usually are. However, The Hustler does the exact opposite of everything that makes me angry about sports movies.

The movie starts out with Newman's character, Fast Eddie Felson, on the quest to make his life legendary. He's arrogant and naive and driven. In other words, he's the protagonist in a sports movie. Instead of progressing in his quest to win, he actually grows as a character.

Eddie falls in love with Sarah, a hard drinking, enigmatic woman who stands up for herself and what she wants. She gives Eddie a run for his money, living fast and working for what she wants (she goes to college!).

She stands by him when he gets his thumbs broken and can no longer play pool, but she also tells him he needs to get back to doing what he loves. For what seems like the first time in his life (at the very least the first time in the movie) he listens to someone else. He decides to stop feeling sorry for himself and heads to Louisville to hustle a rich billiards player.

Sarah continuously clashes with Eddie's manager, ultimately leading to her demise.

Eddie goes back to fight not for his legacy, but for Sarah's, which is the ultimate change in character for Eddie. He fights (well, plays) for something greater than himself, which officially earned him my respect.

This movie just goes to show you that you can't judge a movie by its genre. The movie is also gorgeously designed and shot, earning it two Oscars in its day.

It's funny how a movie that I thought was going to be a waste of my time became something that made me think. Now I'm questioning everything. Also, can someone teach me how to play pool?

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