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The Martha's Vineyard Times

The Martha's Vineyard Times is a weekly publication.
August 18 - 24, 2005 Edition
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Film Standing ovations for “A Certain Kind of Beauty”
August 4 , 2005

By Karla Araujo

“Thank you for coming out to see my misery,” Dan Aronie quipped from his wheelchair on the stage of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Performing Arts Center. He spoke haltingly yet deliberately to the crowd of nearly 600 supporters who had just witnessed the July 21 premiere of the documentary, “A Certain Kind of Beauty,” a chronicle of his struggle against crippling multiple sclerosis. Mr. Aronie, now 33, may have lost his motor skills and nearly his life during the past 10 years, but his wry sense of humor was clearly intact as he beamed out at the audience who rewarded him with repeated standing ovations, whistles, and shouts of “I love you, Dan!”

Marty Nadler, comic and screenwriter, welcomed viewers with a tongue-in-cheek monologue about the annual onslaught of summer tourists. The film was then introduced by Harold Ramis, screenwriter, director, and actor, whose films include some of the top comedies of the past several decades, including “Animal House,” “Caddyshack,” “Groundhog Day,” and “Analyze This.” Mr. Ramis commended the Aronie family and the filmmakers Liz Witham, Ken Wentworth, Nancy Slonim Aronie and Gerald Blake Storrow, for their “creativity, compassion and humanity.” He characterized Mr. Aronie as “still handsome, still dapper, still crazy after all these years.”

Finally, Mr. Aronie’s mother Nancy, a writer, commentator for National Public Radio, spoke about her son’s long and arduous journey from a cocky, strapping motorcycle-riding, pool-hustling ladies’ man of 21, to an angry, suicidal 30-year-old trapped in a body that would no longer perform even the most basic human functions without assistance. She believes that now, at 33, her son has reached a point of greater acceptance, spurred by his belief that others who become disabled will find comfort through his story of love and strength in the face of adversity. Citing his “endless reserve of patience, strength and humor,” Ms. Aronie paid tribute to her son: “You are a magnificent man and no illness will ever take that from you.”

The documentary is a compilation of carefully chosen moments, from Mr. Aronie’s early awareness of speech problems and slight tremors to open heart surgery and a four-month stint in a Boston hospital. “A Certain Kind of Beauty” takes an unflinching look at the progressive ravages of multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease. We see a tall, handsome young man articulately discussing his fears of the future at age 27. Experimental brain surgery, bee sting therapy, western medicine, acupuncture, and other alternative approaches all failed to stop the disease’s unrelenting course.

While it is painful to watch Mr. Aronie’s losses, the filmmakers also capture the Aronie family’s warmth, love and unique brand of humor. Poignant moments are interspersed with comic relief.

“I don’t want to give up,” Dan insists at a particularly difficult stage of his illness. “I don’t want to die. It’s not my style.” There is a pause and a silence. Suddenly, with a laugh, he adds, “I definitely don’t want to give up and die horny.”

As Mr. Aronie battles the disease, the family draws closer. His father Joel, older brother Josh, Nancy, a series of caregivers and a cadre of friends encircle him with compassion and indefatigable support.

“I’ve seen that happiness can conquer all,” Mr. Aronie says at his 33rd birthday party at the end of the film. As audience members, we have accompanied him on his remarkable journey from brash youth to wounded, yet still-spirited manhood. We have watched the fury, the sorrow, the love and the fleeting moments of joy that sustain this courageous man and his extraordinary family. We are exhausted and saddened and hopeful and grateful and somehow more human as a result.

Filmmakers Liz Witham and Ken Wentworth of Film-Truth Productions plan to distribute “A Certain Kind of Beauty” nationwide both commercially and through schools and health-related organizations. They hope Dan Aronie will accompany them as much as he is able. Dan welcomes e-mail at
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