Mask (1985)

Mask (1985)

Taglines: Sometimes the most unlikely people become heroes.

Rusty Dennis is the mother of Rocky, a seriously deformed but extremely intelligent and emotionally warm teenager. Rusty is a no-nonsense mother whose wild lifestyle is often at odds with her tenderness and protectiveness towards Rocky. She is determined that Rocky be given the same chances and happiness that everyone else takes for granted.

Mask is a 1985 American biographical drama film directed by Peter Bogdanovich, starring Cher, Sam Elliott, and Eric Stoltz with supporting roles done by Dennis Burkley, Laura Dern, Estelle Getty, and Richard Dysart. Cher received the 1985 Cannes Film Festival award for Best Actress. The film is based on the life and early death of Roy L. “Rocky” Dennis, a boy who suffered from craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, an extremely rare disorder known commonly as lionitis due to the disfiguring cranial enlargements that it causes. Mask won the Academy Award for Best Makeup while Cher and Stoltz received Golden Globe nominations for their performances.

About the Story

In 1979 Azusa, California, Rocky Dennis (Eric Stoltz), who suffers from craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, is accepted without question by his freewheeling biker mother’s boyfriends, his “extended motorcycle family,” and his maternal grandparents who share his love of baseball card collecting; but is treated with fear, pity, awkwardness, and teasing by those unaware of his humanity, humor, and intelligence.

Mask (1985)

Rocky’s mother, Florence “Rusty” Dennis (Cher), is determined to give Rocky as normal a life as possible, in spite of her own wild ways as a member of the Turks biker gang, as well as her strained relationship with her parents. She fights for Rocky’s inclusion in a mainstream junior high school and confronts a principal who would rather relegate him to a special education school, despite the fact that his condition hasn’t affected his intelligence.

They then go to the doctor for Rocky’s semi-annual physical, where Rocky claims to be feeling well, despite continuing headaches, that his mother can sing away. A young doctor tells Rusty that Rocky will probably not live for more than six months which Rusty scoffs at, as the doctors had been making predictions in the past that Rocky would be blind, deaf, mentally retarded, etc, none of which came to be.

Rocky goes on to thrive at school. He wins friends by assisting a fellow student with remembering his locker combination. Using humor when faced with an awkward silence during roll call, Rocky just repeats the prior new student’s line, “Wow, thanks a lot.” The class turns to smile and laugh with Rocky. He entertains his history class by giving a rendition of the story of the Trojan Horse and it being the turning point of the Trojan War. Gradually overcoming discrimination and tutoring his classmates for $3 per hour, Rocky is asked by the principal to accept a job as a counselor’s aide at Camp Bloomfield, a summer camp for blind children. At his graduation from junior high, Rocky takes home academic achievement prizes in mathematics, history, and science.

Rocky feels the need to leave his chronically depressed and drug-addicted mother, and helps her break her drug habit. At camp, Rocky falls in love with Diana Adams (Laura Dern), a blind girl who cannot see (but feels) his deformed skull and is entranced by Rocky’s kindness and compassion. Rocky uses his intelligence to explain to Diana words like “billowy,” “clouds,” “red,” and “green” by using cotton balls as a touchable vision of “billowy clouds,” a warm rock to explain “red” and “pink,” and a frozen rock to explain “icy blue.” Diana introduces Rocky to her parents, who are put-off by Rocky’s appearance, and do not want Diana to spend time with him.

Near the end of the film, Rocky faces the pain of separation from the two people to which he feels closest. His dream of a motorbike trip through Europe collapses when his best friend Ben (Lawrence Monoson), who was to come with him, tells him that he is moving back to Michigan for good. This drives Rocky into berating Ben and calling him “stupid”, then finally revealing to Ben that he conned him out of a Rube Walker card.

However, Rocky feels better after taking a bus trip by himself to visit Diana at the equestrian stables, located near Griffith Park. Diana tells Rocky that her parents prevented her from receiving his phone messages. But then, she reveals that she is going away to a private school for the blind, and cannot be with him.

Mask Movie Poster (1985)

Mask (1985)

Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich
Starring: Cher, Eric Stoltz, Sam Elliott, Estelle Getty, Richard Dysart, Laura Dern, Micole Mercurio, Dennis Burkley, Lawrence Monoson
Screenplay by: Anna Hamilton Phelan
Cinematography by: László Kovács
Film Editing by: Barbara Ford
Set Decoration by: Richard J. DeCinces
Art Direction by: Norman Newberry
Music by: Dennis Ricotta
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release Date: March 8, 1985