I have a confession to make: I rarely get starstruck. Not when Paris Hilton asked me for a drink. Not when soon-to-be Glee star Blake Jenner called me on the phone. Not when I bumped into Nick Lachey at work. And certainly not when famed photographer Nigel Barker showed me how to properly use my iPhone camera. To put it in context, I work with famous people on a daily basis. So it takes a lot to faze me. But last night’s encounter had me shaking with excitement and nervousness and admiration for the movie (and later the person) I was about to see.
To be honest, I’ve been following Kevin Laue’s story for a while. I can’t remember when I first saw the video interview on the news, exactly, but I recall being intrigued by someone barely older than me (and with the same limb difference) accomplishing so much. So when I heard that the documentary would be playing at a theater 15 minutes from my office, I knew I had to go watch it. While I’m hardly a sports fan (seriously, I pick my Super Bowl team based on which uniform colors I like the best), I love documentaries and I do enjoy the classic underdog theme in sports movies. And Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story, which was directed by Franklin Martin, is a great example of both.
The film effortlessly transitions from the poignant moments when Kevin mourns his father’s untimely passing and resents their less-than-perfect relationship to the more lighthearted moments when Kevin showcases his dry and cheeky sense of humor. My typically stone-faced boyfriend Chris, who’d played basketball in high school and kindly gave me a play-by-play description of what Kevin’s moves on the court meant, shed the first tears I’ve ever seen him cry in the two years we’ve been together. (And this comes long after I’ve subjected him to tearjerkers like The Notebook and Titanic and Forrest Gump.) I’ll admit that I teared up every once in a while too, but then Kevin would crack a hilarious one-liner and it would make me laugh again. The documentary depicted him as such a cool, down-to-earth guy. He was funny, confident, smart, and humble. And he had EVERYTHING going for him but a left arm. Who wouldn’t root for him?
In rooting for him, though, I was afraid that the film (and that I) would fall into the trap that so many movies featuring disability plunge into. I’ve seen movies and shows and even news articles disappoint me with the nauseating and unrealistic trope of the person with a disability who is simultaneously heroic and pitiable. They’ll usually have some stock message about how it’s great that the person “overcame” his or her obstacles and triumphed but, at the end of the day, they’re still preachy and gushy and somehow manage to focus more on the disability. But this film wasn’t like that. Not at all.
Martin artfully and realistically shows Kevin both at his most vulnerable (moments when he’s crying over a missed free throw and even when he’s nearly nude in the shower) and at his most glorious (when he’s awarded a basketball scholarship to a Division I college). And through it all, Kevin remained steadfast in his hard work and focused on his goals. I couldn’t detect an ounce of self-pity in Kevin himself, and he didn’t seem the type to invite any sympathy either. So I cried along with him when he broke his leg during a game. And my heart went out to him when he spoke reverently of his father. But I did not pity him for his limb difference. And neither the film nor the subject of it allows you to feel bad about Kevin’s arm. He’s good. He deserves to play in the big leagues alongside some of the most skilled and talented basketball players in the world. And as justice has it, he does.
Walking out of the theater feeling inspired and completely in awe of the man whose story we’d just witnessed onscreen, Chris and I found a huge crowd in the lobby waiting for the next showing of the film. And in the middle of that throng of people was Kevin Laue, posing by a life-sized cardboard cutout of himself for the paparazzi. When people started filing into the theater, I managed to sneak up to the front and meet Kevin. He was super nice and posed for a photo with me (Chris was my personal paparazzo for the day). There were camera flashes and people surrounding us. And it felt very red carpet-esque, which I should be used to by now after several premieres at Oxygen. But there was just something really different about it this time. And as much as I love working in entertainment, nothing quite compares to meeting someone you admire and whose story really moves you.
For more info on the documentary film and where/when it’s playing, check out http://www.thekevinlauestory.com/