Director : J.R. Binder
Every year for the last bunch, a Nissan dealership in the town of Longview, Texas has given away a truck to the person who was able to stand around it for the longest time. The actual participants, who we get to know rather intimately, are quite a scrappy bunch. One is missing her front teeth, another seems too overweight to stand for longer than a day, and the others are basically just a bunch of odd rednecks. But in a test of will like this one, these people are forced to look at each other, and then again at themselves (reflected off of the shiny hood of the prized pickup) for as long as they can stand to deal with the indefinite reality of the contest.
The official rules of the competition allow the contestant a five-minute break every hour and a fifteen-minute break every six hours. The contestant must also keep at least one hand flat on the truck at all times, and cannot lean against it nor sleep at any point unless they are on a break.
Some documentaries, like those by Errol Morris (“A Thin Blue Line” “Cheap, Fast and Out of Control”), manage to make the “simple” incredibly interesting, but “Hands On a Hardbody” represents the discovery of a cinematic pot of gold just waiting to be polished. A contest like this, filled with an incredibly colorful cast of real people and an insanely entertaining premise, is destined for greatness if executed even adequately. Fortunately for us, this is an even more cleverly handled film than one could have expected with a perfectly paced narrative.
Among the many hilarious things you witness in your short stay in Longview, is the naturally undirected disclosure of events. The film is edited in such a careful way that the viewer truly begins to feel the exhaustion and mental erosion of the participants as days begin to pass. This is really a battle of attrition in the truest sense of the word, and the film manages to capture the people as they crumble before your eyes.
By the time the truck is won the twenty people who all had thought they would win have collapsed in a disappointed sea of pity. The scariest thing about entering a competition like this would be the proposition of coming in second. Days and days of grueling boredom and torturous exhaustion just to end up driving home in the beat-up clunker you drove up in. “Hands on a Hardbody” is kind of like the Iditarod for rednecks and one that you’d have to be senile to outgrow.