I was fortunate to see the cult documentary movie classic Hands on a Hardbody at the Dobie Mall Theater in Austin, Tx, in 1997. Memories of a sore belly from laughing with a theater full of other laughing humans brought me back to see it more than once. Then, later, when it was available for rent on VHS, I shared it with anyone who cared or didn't. This film should be viewed far and wide, again and again.
"In S.R. Bindler's 1997 cult classic, two dozen small-town Texans compete for a brand-new "Hardbody" pickup truck at a local car dealership. The event is a contest of endurance and sleep-deprivation—whoever can remain standing the longest with one hand on the truck will get to drive it home. Capturing several days of lunacy, laughter, struggle and heartbreak, Hands On a Hardbody is more than a documentary about winning a truck. It is a remarkable study of competition, camaraderie, faith and determination—the ultimate human drama. Available on DVD (and streaming) for the first time in ten years, this new edition of Hands On a Hardbody has been digitally remastered and includes over and hour of never-before-seen interviews.
Check out the trailer here.
In a 2020 (re)view of the documentary, Olivia Pym from Esquire wrote,
"Hands on a Hardbody is pure human drama, like watching a stuck elevator in which small annoyances and petty rivalries are blown out of proportion because you simply cannot escape people's laughing, humming and complaining. What is more interesting though is the bonds that people form from spending 60 hours stood next to a stranger, with friendships forged in the Texas sun which make for truly moving viewing. As the hours draw on the contestants peel off one by one, their determined words about going the distance and "just not letting go" coming back to haunt them as their legs shake and their minds bend. It is the kind of contained theatrics which would be the perfect subject for Tarantino's much rumored tenth and final film, but really, nothing could rival the pure drama of the original."
In 2013, Hands on a Hardbody was made into a musical in 2013, with music composed by Trey Anastasio from Phish. Every anthropologist worth their salt should watch this film.