Bodybuilding Reviews / Videos
Beyond the Pain: The Vicki Nixon Story
Reviews by Gerry Triano and Mike Emery

 

Beyond the Pain: The Vicki Nixon Story
Format: DVD
Issued by: Mike Pulcinella Video Productions
Length: 83 minutes
Year: 2008
Availability: http://www.vickinixon.com/store.html
“Downsize Me” clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Tql9jGDsk 

I just viewed this DVD and my first reaction is WOW. 

Mike Pulcinella has done it again. He has filmed a documentary of depth, emotion, candor and insight. There is not much available on DVD about women's bodybuilding. Pumping Iron II: The Women (1985) is a panorama shot of this sport, which focused on the early ‘80s phenomenon of Bev Francis. Mike's DVD is a zoom-in close-up of the same sport, as seen through the dedication and sacrifice of IFBB pro Vicki Nixon.

The “Downsize Me” clip has one of the central themes presented on the DVD. Vicki speaks of two annual letters from the IFBB asking female bodybuilders to downsize themselves to look more feminine, each one requesting a 20% reduction in muscularity (for a total of 40%, or nearly half their muscle mass). Yet the larger, more muscular women are still winning the shows. Bodybuilding is basically about muscularity. I like the women to have feminine lines and look like women, but feel they also should look like bodybuilders. There is a lot of food for thought about women’s bodybuilding in this documentary.

Mike and Vicki are not afraid to do a "warts and all" presentation of the sport. Dedication is a theme which permeates here: Vicki's dedication to her sport despite the ailments and pain she has endured, her dedication to her husband Brian, also a competitive bodybuilder, and his dedication to her and her goals. It’s wonderful to see how much they support and love each other.

Vicki is multifaceted and multidimensional, and the film’s ending is upbeat. Though retired from the competitive side of the sport, she will go on with her life and pursue other interests while still enduring her pain. She refuses to give in to adversity, and that contributes to making her a special lady and athlete.

NPC national champ Dave Pulcinella is a force here as well, on the DVD and behind the scenes with his background piano. As he did for Raising the Bar II, Martin Bailey effectively scores the electronic music for the film. 

Highly recommended -- in "Ebert speak," two thumbs up. I only have two thumbs, or it would be many more!

Gerry Triano
June 2008


Mike Pulcinella’s film profile of IFBB pro Vicki Nixon is an inspiring look at the career of a high achiever in bodybuilding and life. Vicki has been competing since 1985; in a bonus clip on the DVD, we see her demonstrating poses for a 1992 ESPN TV broadcast with Carla Dunlap (my favorite female bodybuilder of all time). Vicki went pro at the 2004 Team Universe, and competed several times in IFBB shows until she retired from competition this year due to health constraints. All this is the tip of the iceberg, though. This film delves below the surface in order to show what brought Vicki to this point in life. 

The film is a dual profile, for Vicki’s husband Brian is as much a part of it as she is. They are a lucky couple – a compatible, mutually supportive pair who met in the gym and never left it. Brian is a rarity among male bodybuilders – a modest, soft-spoken man – and his excellence as an NPC competitor helps give the film its upbeat ending. I hope he’ll continue at the national level in masters competition; he would do well.

While the film deals with the pressures and pleasures of a bodybuilding career, the title gives away its true theme: getting where you want to be despite the curves life throws you. Life’s limits take several forms for Vicki. Her health problems (some of them unrelated to training) take a toll on her and Brian. The most vivid scenes in the film occur in hospitals: you see an operation in progress at one point. Another limit is Vicki’s past, including an early marriage that ended in divorce. The IFBB’s and NPC’s annual rule changes for female competitors offer another challenge (well captured in the film’s “Downsize Me” sequence).  Fortunately Vicki’s parents have been supportive, and she has been luckier in her relationships since the ‘80s. The limits she faces now are external; the inner ones are taken care of. 

It has been said the unexamined life is not worth living. Vicki has worked long and hard to examine hers, finding ways forward regardless of setbacks. As for determination, Vicki has more than most people can imagine. Striking the right balance, finding what you do well, surrounding yourself with the right people – Vicki has done these things. This film, beautifully made by Mike Pulcinella, shows life not as a competition, but as a journey towards the things that matter most. It’s a stunning piece of work.

Mike Emery
July 2008

 

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