“80 for Brady” confuses me. It wasn’t showing at the Michigan or State theaters — that would be too easy. Kyle Marvin’s new film was instead relegated to a Cinemark in Ypsilanti. One would assume that, to see this movie, I would have had to go to a movie theater, but calling that Cinemark a movie theater would go against my journalistic integrity. It was a sprawling, monstrous megalopolis. The halls were 20 feet wide and the lobby approached the size of a soccer field. Maybe when they’re filled with excited moviegoers the walls feel tighter and the ceiling closer, but that was not the case when I was there. I imagine this Cinemark is what the ruins of Rome look like. Tall and daunting, with memories held in its walls from some bygone golden age when its corridors were filled with laughter instead of the haunting silence I found there. The screening room was empty. People were not piling up to see the 7:45 p.m. Tuesday showing of “80 for Brady.” Strange.
In that nearly empty theater, I watched a simple story of four elderly women attempting to get to Super Bowl LI to watch Tom Brady (himself, debut) face off against the Atlanta Falcons.
If you’re curious about the movie, it was fine I guess. There are some fun, goofy moments. Trish (Jane Fonda, “Grace and Frankie”) writes intensely detailed Gronk smut, then goes on to live out her fantasy and hooks up with the 6’5” hunk. Betty (Sally Field, “Mrs. Doubtfire”) unknowingly eats human shit during a deranged “Eyes Wide Shut” party sequence. Maura (Rita Moreno, “West Side Story”) wins hundreds of thousands of dollars gambling and reckons with the evils of charity. Lou (Lily Tomlin, “Nashville”) gets intimate with Brady following a Seventh Seal-esque battle with death, and I am just now realizing how weirdly horny this movie is. A personal highlight is when the women brute force their way into the Playcaller’s booth and build a better defensive scheme than Patriots coact Matt Patricia (seems about right), thus inciting Tommy Tuck-Rule’s famous comeback.
Shockingly, not all of those moments are made up, and the only way you’ll find out which are real is by watching “80 for Brady,” something we both know you won’t do.
It’s also got genuine heart and some emotional moments, but these wholesome scenes couldn’t distract from the medium-dull moments that the majority of the movie consists of. But there is one thing from “80 for Brady” that remained with me long past the intense sexual energy and the drug-fueled mayhem. I was left with a question: Why? A movie for old women? That makes sense. A fun, cheap comedy? That checks out. Strange Tom Brady propaganda? You’ve lost me.
“80 for Brady” wasn’t just a fun idea Brady was kind enough to cameo in. No, Brady himself produced the movie with his own production company. Without him, the movie would have likely never been made. It was Brady all the way down.
Brady is unquestionably the greatest football player in history. Seven championships. Piles of records. MVPs. He’s the GOAT. Yet he produced “80 for Brady,” a movie whose main theme is, “Yeah, friends are cool, but Tom Brady might be cooler,” a movie that frames the bleakest event in sports history as a world-shattering miracle. Once again, why? What does Brady have to prove?
Fifteen minutes in, “80 for Brady” shows us how a younger Lou watched as Brady first started over Drew Bledsoe and used his bravery as the motivation to beat her cancer. Twenty years later, when the cancer threatens to return, she claims that if Brady has the energy to keep playing, she has the energy to keep living. No longer is Brady a mere mortal, claims “80 for Brady”; nay, he is a modern messiah healing the sick and raising the dead.
Maybe I’m reading too far into a movie more concerned with Gronk’s hot bod than telling a meaningful story, but is it not concerning that Brady’s version of death is retirement? As Lou runs from death, Brady runs from retirement, both vowing to keep on kicking for a few more years. In 2022, Brady allowed himself slightly more than one month of retirement before changing his mind and springing back onto the field. His team was terrible, won no playoff games, received no accolades and had a forgettable season. Yet he couldn’t stop himself from playing. For 20 years, and in “80 for Brady,” Brady physically could not imagine a life without football and a life without legacy. This was until about a week ago (at the time of writing) when Brady retired for the second time (this does not bode well for Lou’s lifespan). Despite his retirement, he still found a way to continue his battle for legacy — I watched his movie the next day.
Athletes are in many ways our modern myths. We look up to them and we idolize them, and their strength and ability far surpass anything we mere mortals can hope to achieve. We pray to the iconography of modern versions of Odysseus, Hercules, Theseus and thousands of other demigods touching down on the Earth before us performing acts of magic. Free throw line dunks, 99-yard kickoff returns, hat tricks and grand slams are all godly miracles, convincing us that we can become gods too, if only we try. When LeBron James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time points record, Nike released a controversial ad depicting Lebron as Christ (to be fair, has Christ ever come back from down 3-1 in the Finals?)
The film’s “80 for Brady” squad has even sequenced their own occult prayer to Brady, Lord of the Endzone, by composing a ritual of chip-spilling and hip-twirling to push him to victory. Lou, our leading lady, has constant spiritual visions of Brady’s voice — she is a modern Joan of Arc, leading her geriatric allies to victory. But, unfortunately for Lou, good ol’ Touchdown Tom is no mythic hero. He’s not Perseus, Zeus, Poseidon or Aeneas. Brady is, however, a different, sadder Greek Myth. Brady is Sisyphus.
Replace Sisyphus’s boulder with a football and his mountain for a metaphor and you’ll have Brady. Every day, Brady attempts to forward his legacy, push it higher and higher. Compare Brady with the golden girls starring in his own agenda-pushing film; Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno, Sally Field and Lily Tomlin are all legends in their own right, but they have no need to pursue vanity projects to increase their already golden legacy. They are content to have fun in a silly comedy.
Like Sisyphus, Brady is doomed and his task is futile. Where Sisyphus is punished by the gods, Brady is punishing himself. He got that boulder to the top of the mountain a long, long time ago, but because of his own mental turmoil, he keeps pushing. He will never, can never, be satisfied. There will always be more to do, more history to write, more to win and a boulder to push.
Unlike Sisyphus, there’s no optimistic Albert Camus interpretation of Brady’s story. One cannot imagine Brady happy. If he was, he would have let go of his boulder a long time ago. Last year’s disastrous season wouldn’t have happened. His marriage might still have been intact. “80 for Brady” would never have been made. He will never revel in the absurdity of his quest for greatness, just as the true Sisyphus might have. No. One must imagine Brady tormented, shackled to a boulder of his own creation, climbing up a mountain of MVP trophies, Lombardis and accolades. He is at once a player and a retiree, a champion and a choker, an underdog and a college captain, a winner and a loser. There is no beginning, no middle and no end in sight. There is only Tom Brady.
Daily Arts Writer Rami Mahdi can be reached at email@example.com.