The un­likely greatness of ‘Shawshank’

The Morning Call - - COVER STORY - By Zachary Pin­cus-Roth

MANSFIELD, Ohio — In the lobby of the Re­nais­sance The­atre, Justin Ted­ders lifts his Tshirt: A poster for “The Shawshank Redemp­tion” is tat­tooed across his en­tire back. The movie’s phrase “Brooks was here” is just above his right butt cheek.

The 34-year-old from Bar­bourville, Ken­tucky, a loader at a Wal­mart dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter, beat out other Shankheads to be sec­ond in line at a 25th an­niver­sary screen­ing here in Au­gust, part of a three-day cel­e­bra­tion in and around the prison where the movie was filmed. His ob­ses­sion with movies is a safe way of chan­nel­ing an “ad­dic­tive per­son­al­ity,” he says, and any­time he’s in trou­ble, he re­turns to “Shawshank.”

“It’s given me a pur­pose,” he adds. “My back rep­re­sents what it means to me. I can’t re­ally tell you what it means. I can show you what it means.”

What does this movie mean? In its 25 years, as of Oc­to­ber, “Shawshank” has emerged as an un­likely en­try in the con­test for the most beloved movie of all time. It’s not a fam­ily saga like “The God­fa­ther,” or a geopo­lit­i­cal ro­mance like “Casablanca,” or a tech­ni­cal mas­ter­piece like “Cit­i­zen Kane” — just a box­of­fice also-ran about two prison friends. It’s too sappy, some might say. It’s too neat. It’s ba­si­cally an all-male cast. It’s not quite at those other movies’ level, but it’s not quite not at their level, as it’s spent the last 11 years as the No. 1-rated movie on IMDb. It some­how found the right alchemy of hope and friend­ship and, of course, redemp­tion — with an end­ing so cathar­tic that, yes, this story still re­quires a spoiler alert. And it’s moved fans to make pil­grim­ages to this town in Ohio that once pre­tended to be a town in Maine.

When writer-di­rec­tor Frank Darabont read the orig­i­nal Stephen King novella, “it felt like a per­fect metaphor for ev­ery hard­ship I ever en­dured,”

CAS­TLE ROCK EN­TER­TAIN­MENT

Morgan Free­man, left, and Tim Rob­bins in 1994’s “The Shawshank Redemp­tion,” which has been the No. 1-rated movie on IMDb for the past 11 years.

ZACHARY PIN­CUS-ROTH/WASHINGTON POST

The Ohio State Re­for­ma­tory, where much of “The Shawshank Redemp­tion” was shot. Now it’s a tourist at­trac­tion, with tours, a mu­seum and a gift shop.

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