Movie Review: 'Screwball' Is Documentarian Billy Corben at his Most Entertaining
Alex Rodriguez, Tony Bosch, and an Unbelievable True Story
That Screwball is a true story almost boggles the mind. The publicity machine behind the movie compares it to a real life version of a Coen Brothers story, and that could not be more accurate. Bizarre real life characters, consequential violence, corruption, and pathetic comedy, Screwball has all of the elements that drive stories such as Raising Arizona or even more esoteric fair such as A Serious Man.
Screwball is the latest documentary from the auteur behind the fascinating Cocaine Cowboys, Billy Corben. Cocaine Cowboys was remarkable for Corben's incredibly detailed storytelling, about the Miami Drug trade, from the people who were there. Screwball is similarly a Miami based story, but with a greater emphasis on the absurd, along with the detailed journalism that gives the story its punch.
Tony Bosch is the central figure of this story, though his celebrity client Alex Rodriguez will get most of the attention. Bosch was the son of a doctor who decided that getting rich quickly and partying to excess was more important than a degree. Famously, Bosch's medical degree came through the mail from a foreign country.
As the story of Screwball tells it, Bosch almost tripped over his biggest successes. He began by backing his way into the anti-aging racket, by coming up with drug cocktails for the aging Miami set, that at least had the appearance of maybe helping make people's skin shimmer. It was in this business where Bosch next stumbled into the world of athletics, where he began mixing steroid cocktails for bodybuilders.
Bosch's unique chemistry, and his father's prescription pad, led him into meeting his first celebrity client, Manny Ramirez. Bosch created a remarkable cocktail of drugs, that was just enough to keep Manny in line with baseball's drug testing, as long as he cycled off before test time, and gave him the juice to become one of the best, clutch hitters in baseball.
Eventually, Manny being Manny, he failed to cycle off of Bosch's cocktail, he got caught with it, and so, appeared to go Bosch in the world of sports. But no, despite nearly getting his father's medical license stripped with the Manny debacle, Bosch was soon working with athletes again via his new venture, Bio-Genesis.
Here he would come into contact with baseball stars such as Ryan Braun and, most notably A-Rod, and thus began a relationship that eventually became exclusive. A-Rod paid tens of thousands of dollars to be the only athlete that Tony Bosch tended to, and in return Bosch received entry into the party world of Miami via one of its most popular and eccentric celebs.
Naturally, since what Tony Bosch was doing was skirting the law, criminals became an integral part of the operation, with Miami drug dealers and low level players bouncing between the world of crime and the big money world of Miami athletes. These figures are colorful and fascinating minor players in the A-Rod—Tony Bosch drama unfolding.
The best and most remarkable and entertaining character in this story however, is not a criminal or an athlete, he's someone who once considered himself a 'professional sun tanner.' Porter Fischer was a good hearted lug who met Tony Bosch in his previous venture, in the world of anti-aging and the world of tanning, where some of Tony's drug connections were popular figures.
Porter followed Tony over to Bio-Genesis and his earnest dedication to what Bio-Genesis did for him, improving his doughy dad-bod, makes his story incredibly, comically, poignant. Fischer wanted to believe that Bio-Genesis was legit, and his despair over finding out what a house of cards it was makes him a figure of empathetic and pathetic sadness. He often appears like the only one who didn't realize what was happening, even as he set about taking the whole thing down.
Major League Baseball and especially Alex Rodriguez would much rather you not take notice of Screwball. Even though baseball attempted to save face on the Bio-Genesis scandal, by suspending A-Rod, their conduct as detailed in Screwball is nearly as kooky and corrupt as A-Rod's. Rodriguez has found a second act in both baseball and celebrity of late, and Screwball will provide yet another test of his teflon status.
Be forewarned, Billy Corben experiments with style in Screwball, by underlining the odd comedy of this story by having children portray the principals of this story in comic re-enactments. Tony Bosch, Porter Fischer and others appear in person in Screwball, but the most outlandish of the stories are told using children, and the device is rather ingenious in the end.
It's a device that underlines, in the end, that we are dealing with a game. That game has only been corrupted by the greed, avarice, and dirty dealings of adults with the immaturity of children and the sophistication of a criminal mind. Bill Corben's Screwball does very well to stress how this story unfolded, and how adult corruption wrecked havoc in the simple purity of a game.
Screwball will receive a limited theatrical release on March 29th, before arriving on streaming platforms on April 5th.