3 Stars – Challenging

What passion drives your life?  Does it consume your every waking moment?  Does it attract, or does it drive away, the most important people in your life?  All of these questions are woven into Rush, a remarkable film by Ron Howard.

This is a retelling of the fierce rivalry between Formula One race car drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the 1970’s.  Flamboyant British playboy Hunt couldn’t be more different than the Austrian Lauda who is highly focused-to-a-fault.  Each thought that the other was a caricature of a wasted life, and ironically in the end, each came to depend on the other to drive their passion.

James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) both come from well-to-do backgrounds, and both have chosen to pursue their love of power, speed, and danger at the expressed displeasure of their fathers.  Hunt is the strikingly handsome blond rock star that attracts the most beautiful women in the world.  Hunt was driven by the rush of speed and the intoxication of sex, having claimed to have bedded 5,000 women in his short life.  His first of three wives was the stunning model Suzy Parker whom he married in 1974.  However, Hunt could not put anyone first place in his life other than his own passions and by the end of 1975 Suzy had left Hunt for the actor Richard Burton, who paid Hunt's divorce settlement of $1 million dollars.

Niki Lauda could not have been more different.  Meticulous and passionately focused on the art of motor racing, Lauda judged everyone and everything on its usefulness in getting him to first place in any racing competition.  People had no value to him except as objects to help him achieve his own image of success.  Sadly, that image did not include having any friends, family, or teammates that even remotely liked him.  When he witnessed the affable Hunt wasting his precious time on countless women, he held him in contempt for his undisciplined life.

The great story-telling that director Ron Howard brings to the screen centers on the various races and competitions that lead up to the Formula One World Championship in 1976.  You do not have to be an auto-racing aficionado to appreciate the attention to detail and remarkable cinematography into which Howard brings you.  By the time the last race ends during a rainstorm in Japan, both men’s lives have been challenged to the point of physical collapse and both men have become fierce rivals depending on their dislike for the other to spur them on.

If anyone’s life changed for the better due to this rivalry, it is hard to say.  Hunt never pursued a racing carrier to any degree after this 1976 battle.  He continued to feed his sexual addictions, moved to Wimbledon and became a race commentator dying of a heart attack at age 45.

Lauda continued to race and to pursue other mechanical passions included flying jets.  Although he married for convenience, his wife stuck with him through many trials in his life.  Singularly lonely, he longed for the strange “friendship” that his rivalry with Hunt provided.  The real Niki Lauda appears at the end of the story to express his appreciation for Hunt’s involvement in his life.

Did they both live wasted lives?  They certainly lived out their passions.  What is clear is that the price they paid to fulfill their professional and personal desires cost them any long-term happiness in their personal lives.  Whether or not that is worth the price is the question we all must face.


Discussion for those who have seen this film:

1. It has become a popular expression to encourage young people to pursue their passion.  Do you believe that is the best advice we can give or are there larger purpose for a person’s life?

2. The willingness to risk everything in order to win can be seen in many spheres of life.  Do you experience such rivalry?  And if so how do you keep your balance?

3. The sexual addiction of Hunt caused him to miss out on true female companionship.  Similarly the use of others for his own success cost Lauda the loss of all companions.  How have you navigated the journey to a maturity that values others for who they are and not for the pleasure or utilitarian usefulness they may provide?

Posted on March 30, 2014 and filed under 3 STARS, CHALLENGING.