Wednesday, October 31, 2018

‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ examines creativity gone awry

“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” (2018). Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Jane Curtin, Dolly Wells, Ben Falcone, Christian Navarro, Stephen Spinella, Gregory Korostishevsky, Anna Deavere Smith, Pun Bandu, Erik LaRay Harvey, Brandon Scott Jones, Marc Evan Jackson, Sandy Rosenberg, Towne the cat. Director: Marielle Heller. Screenplay: Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty. Book: Lee Israel, Can You Ever Forgive Me? Web site. Trailer.

Creativity is a wonderful thing. It gives us great satisfaction, and it can lead to the production of marvelous conceptions made manifest. It offers boundless opportunities for exploration and expression, adding constantly to the richness of human experience. But is it always benevolent and uplifting, or can it be contorted into questionable forms that get out of hand? That’s a fine line to traverse, but sometimes we may step over it and find ourselves on the wrong side of the creative process. Such an experience befell a struggling author, as depicted in the intriguing new biopic, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

In 1991, writer Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) was going through hard times. The talented author and journalist, a biography specialist who managed to land one of her titles on The New York Times best seller list, had fallen out of favor with readers, publishers and her agent, Marjorie (Jane Curtin). Despite a small but loyal fan following, no one was buying her books, and she was having trouble making ends meet, let alone finding success in securing new publishing deals. In fact, in a tense meeting with Marjorie, the no-nonsense agent strongly encouraged her client to look for a new way to make a living.

[caption id="attachment_10235" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Down-and-out author Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) devises an ingenious scheme to support herself by forging the literary letters of famous writers in director Marielle Heller’s new biopic, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Photo by Mary Cybulski © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.[/caption]

Of course, Israel did little to help her own cause. While she was quick to point out the quality of her work and her past accomplishments, she nevertheless refused to engage in most of the activities, such as media appearances, that authors were increasingly being called upon to do in promoting their work. It also didn’t help that she was often known for being surly, sloppy and drunk much of the time. Those qualities affected not only her professional life, but her personal life as well. She had few friends, her best pal being her elderly cat, Jersey (Towne the cat). She lived a rather lonely life on her own, having separated from her partner, Elaine (Anna Deavere Smith), in a Manhattan apartment in dire need of a good cleaning.

Given these circumstances, Israel’s prospects for the future looked bleak. Her back was against the wall financially, conditions made worse by being months behind in her rent and having to figure out a way to cover vet bills for an aging and ailing feline. She was desperate to turn things around.

In spite of publishers turning their backs on her, Israel continued work on her latest writing project, a biography of Vaudeville comedienne Fanny Brice (1891-1951), hoping that someone might eventually be interested in picking it up. While conducting research, she came upon a personal note written by the performer stuck inside a library book. Believing that it might have some value, she decided to swipe it in hopes that she could sell it for some quick cash.

Not long thereafter, Israel approached a book shop owner (Dolly Wells), who confirmed that the letter indeed had worth. In fact, Israel was surprised to learn that there was a sizable collectors’ market for the literary letters of famous authors and artists, especially for items with good content. That revelation gave the starving writer an idea: Why not embellish or even create forgeries of those letters and sell them to eager memorabilia brokers? Suddenly, Israel had a new way to make a living, doctoring the works of such luminaries as Noel Coward and Dorothy Parker.

[caption id="attachment_10236" align="aligncenter" width="300"]With drinking buddy and occasional partner in crime Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant, right), author and literary forger Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy, left) toast to the success of their new fraudulent venture in the intriguing biopic, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Photo by Mary Cybulski © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.[/caption]

Needless to say, discretion is vital when perpetrating a fraud such as this, so Israel kept mum about her new venture, confiding only in her new drinking buddy – and occasional partner in crime – Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant). The polished would-be man about town helped fence some of her wares when the heat began to get turned up, and he came up with some clever schemes of his own. But he also proved to be unreliable – and untrustworthy. And, as some collectors began to question the authenticity of their purchases, Israel came under increasing scrutiny from several brokers (Ben Falcone, Stephen Spinella), especially when they were questioned by federal agents. The noose was tightening, as investigators began closing in.

Lee’s odyssey is, to say the least, a colorful and creative one. Indeed, one can’t help but admire her ingenuity in attempting to get herself out of a gigantic pickle. One might even say that, as seen in another recently released biopic, “The Old Man & the Gun”, she’s sort of an endearing criminal folk hero. However, a life of crime is hardly laudable, no matter what the circumstances, and sanctioning it is anything but noble. So one can’t help but ask, why did she have to resort to it in the first place?

As becomes apparent from her circumstances, Israel was desperate for a solution. And desperate people, as we all know, often resort to desperate measures to seek resolution. All of which naturally begs the question, how did matters become so desperate to begin with?

Given where Lee stood at the start of the film, she has quite a full plate of issues to contend with, most of them of her own making. Her boorish attitude, lazy ways, impolite demeanor and constant imbibing didn’t lend themselves to a successful career or a happy home life. Instead, they produced miserable outcomes, unrelenting despair and a persistent need to scramble to stay afloat personally, professionally and financially.

[caption id="attachment_10237" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Struggling author Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy, left) receives harsh, plainspoken advice about the unlikely future of her career from her agent, Marjorie (Jane Curtin, right), in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Photo by Mary Cybulski © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.[/caption]

At the risk of sounding unduly judgmental, it would be easy to say that the author was her own worst enemy, that her plight was one of her own making. But such a critical assessment isn’t necessarily all that far off the mark when one looks at it through the lens of the conscious creation process, the philosophy that maintains we manifest the reality we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. And, given how Lee’s life had turned out, she obviously adhered to some doozies in this regard.

Israel’s dour perspective on life materialized on multiple fronts – her vocational trouble, her lack of a fulfilling personal life and so forth. It’s no wonder that she turned to incessant alcohol use to deaden the pain. And it’s no surprise that these conditions left her with a spate of difficult challenges to sort out.

Fortunately, being the creative type that she was, Lee came up with a “solution” that reflected her temperament, character and sensibilities. Her scheme to forge and market phony literary letters was brilliant in its own way. She was eminently detailed in her approach, too, right down to matching the typeface fonts in the typewriters supposedly used by her subjects to write “their” correspondence. What’s more, her plan reflected the core conscious creation principle of using one’s beliefs to push through seemingly impenetrable limitations. Once she learned how to hone the particulars of her scheme, Israel ostensibly perfected it as an art form. She was so firm in her beliefs and confident in her abilities that, for a while, it seemed as though there was nothing she couldn’t get away with.

However, that eye for detail, that scrupulous intent to be “authentic,” is what ultimately got her in trouble. Despite her many personality flaws, in her early days as a successful writer and journalist, Israel believed strongly in being faithful to the quality of her work, including the integrity associated with it. Yet, while she believed in her later years that her needs justified her illicit actions, that longstanding notion about integrity couldn’t help but creep in. This had the effect of rendering her fallible, resulting in an unwitting form of self-sabotage, one aimed at giving expression to that strive for personal authenticity.

[caption id="attachment_10238" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Neophyte criminal Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy, right) scams an unsuspecting bookstore owner (Dolly Wells, left) into buying a phony literary letter in a scheme to help alleviate her financial problems in the engaging new biopic, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Photo by Mary Cybulski © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.[/caption]

One might wonder, how could she undercut herself when everything with her plan seemed to be going so well? In some ways, this self-sabotaging manifestation is akin to a “tell” that a bluffing poker player may unknowingly reveal when trying to con his or her fellow gamesters. The truth of the deception bubbles to the surface in some identifiable way, making the creation vulnerable to exposure, no matter how well the deceiver may try to cover the underlying intent. In the end, one’s beliefs ultimately will out.

If nothing else, the foregoing helps to illustrate what powerful things beliefs truly are, even if we don’t recognize them as such or fully appreciate what they’re capable of accomplishing. Israel’s creative ventures may be commendable in terms of their ingenuity, but they also have inherent pitfalls, especially when driven by beliefs that aren’t fully recognized, reconciled or understood, particularly when operating in tandem with one another. Such circumstances can set us up for extreme difficulties, outcomes driven by the practice of un-conscious creation or creation by default. Lee’s misadventures clearly reflect that problem, as seen in the results she realizes, particularly where beliefs about integrity begin to make their presence felt in the middle of an otherwise-well-hatched fraud.

So how does one avoid such issues? The key is in becoming clear about the true nature of one’s beliefs and ruling out those that are unwanted, essentially to create a reality free of those influences that we don’t want in place from the outset. By excluding such undesirable materialization mechanisms from our creative matrix, we can avoid having to come up with workarounds or stop-gap solutions. Mind you, eliminating integrity from the mix may not be the wisest choice (even though it would have made Lee’s plan run more smoothly), but ridding ourselves of whatever beliefs get in the way is crucial to achieve the success we seek.

At the same time, we should also be clear that sometimes such unfortunate experiences are unavoidable if they involve beliefs designed to foster the circumstances necessary to learn certain life lessons, some of which we may be unaware of. Perhaps that was what was behind Israel’s experience, difficult though it may have been. Such incidents may be hard to fathom and difficult for onlookers to witness, yet, if they’re necessary for our personal growth and development, they might be inescapable. Should that be the case, one can only hope that we get the message on the first try so that we don’t have to repeat them again later.

Ironically, despite the many troubles Israel underwent with her scheme, in her own way she found the experience enjoyable. Having had the opportunity to impersonate the writers she so admired – and to effectively convince others that her writing was on par with those literary icons – gave her great fulfillment. It was as if she had a chance to contribute to a body of work built on the foundations of great writing, something she truly appreciated and that was beginning to grow ever scarcer in light of changes taking place in the publishing industry at the time. It was so satisfying, in fact, that she described it as the best time of her life. No matter how strange or warped that may sound to some of us, there’s something to be said for it in its own unusual way. Such fulfillment is an aspiration to which we should all strive in our creative endeavors, regardless of what they are (though larceny is probably not recommended).

As biopics go, director Marielle Heller’s “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” is about as good as they get. This engaging, smartly written tale serves up a banquet of laughs, tears and a dash of inspired criminality, all wrapped up in an intelligent cinematic package. McCarthy delivers a stellar performance as the literary scoundrel, demonstrating that there’s more to her range than what she’s shown in her many comic turns and taking a front and center position among leading candidates for awards season honors. Similar accolades are due to Grant as the protagonist’s flamboyant scallywag accomplice, potentially another honoree waiting to happen. But perhaps the film’s most praiseworthy attribute is the screenplay co-written by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, the former having distinguished herself yet again in the recently released character study, “The Land of Steady Habits”. It’s heartening to see a picture that truly appreciates the value of great writing, both in its subject matter and in the vehicle that brings its story to the screen. To that end, it’s gratifying to see a contemporary release that refuses to dumb itself down to appeal to the lowest common denominator. This offering shines in so many respects and genuinely deserves whatever honors it receives.

As Lee Israel came to discover, creativity can be a dual-edged sword, one that articulately dissect or blatantly dismember whatever it’s thrust upon. It can cut with surgical precision or slash with reckless abandon. But whatever happens, the outcome depends on who is wielding the implement and how he or she does so. There’s a tremendously powerful tool at work here, and we should take care to handle it judiciously if we hope to keep control over – and not lose any of our fingers in the process.

Copyright © 2018, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Now on Spotify!

Now on Spotify! Check out my latest Movies with Meaning segment on The Good Media Network's FrankieSense & More show. Follow us on Spotify!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

‘Beautiful Boy’ plumbs the depths of parental love

“Beautiful Boy” (2018). Cast: Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan, Kaitlyn Dever, Timothy Hutton, Oakley Bull, Christian Convery, Andre Royo, Stefanie Scott, Kue Lawrence, Zachary Rifkin, Jack Dylan Grazer, Director: Felix Van Groeningen. Screenplay: Luke Davies and Felix Van Groeningen. Books: David Sheff, Beautiful Boy, and Nic Sheff, Tweak. Web site. Trailer.

How far should parents go in looking after their children? Some would say that there are no limits on this question, that mothers and fathers should be willing to do whatever it takes to attend to their kids. But is that really true? And what happens when those children are on the verge of becoming adults themselves – do the same rules apply as when they’re youngsters, especially if they become embroiled in challenges seemingly of their own making? However, no matter what happens, they’re still one’s kids, and there’s a natural tendency toward being protective that automatically kicks in. Those are among some of the tough questions addressed in the new, fact-based family drama, “Beautiful Boy.”

There’s virtually nothing that successful free-lance writer David Sheff (Steve Carell) won’t do for his kids, especially his first-born son, Nic (Timothée Chalamet). As the product of David’s first marriage to his ex-wife, Vicki (Amy Ryan), Nic has just turned 18 and is facing his future. He’s a rather creative sort and is contemplating following in his dad’s footsteps by becoming a writer. And, by all appearances, father and son have what seems to be a tight bond and healthy relationship, one that’s perhaps better than what most parents and children experience. But is that really the case?

As much as David loves Nic, he begins noticing that things may not be as good as he believes they are. Occasionally erratic behavior surfaces, including evidence of accidents and unexplained disappearances. David grows concerned that there may be problems lurking beneath the surface of a superficial veil of happiness and contentment, and he wants to do what he can to help. Nic pretends that everything is fine, but, as becomes apparent, that’s far from the truth.

David suspects that Nic may be involved with drugs. Having experimented with various substances himself in his youth and realizing that such experiences are a rite of passage for many during adolescence, he’s reluctant to come down heavily on his son for fear of being seen as a hypocrite, fully aware that such activities are part of growing up. But, when matters start getting out of hand, David realizes he needs to intervene, not only for his and Nic’s welfare, but also to protect the rest of his family, including his current wife, Karen (Maura Tierney), and their two children, Jasper (Christian Convery) and Daisy (Oakley Bull).

[caption id="attachment_10225" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Drug-addicted teen Nic Sheff (Timothée Chalamet, center) struggles to overcome his demons, but, fortunately, he has the support of a loving family behind him, including his father David (Steve Carell, right), stepmother Karen (Maura Tierney, center, back to camera) and step-siblings Daisy (Oakley Bull, left) and Jasper (Christian Convery, second from right), in the new, fact-based family drama, “Beautiful Boy.” Photo by Francois Duhamel, courtesy of Amazon Studios.[/caption]

In an attempt to nip matters in the bud, Nic enters rehab, a program that seems to bring promising results. However, as Nic’s counselor Julia (Stefanie Scott) acknowledges, success without backslides is not guaranteed, that relapse is frequently part of recovery. That’s further complicated by the fact that Nic’s drug of choice is crystal meth, a particularly difficult habit to kick given how it insidiously impacts brain function, an eye-opening discovery David makes when he meets with a medical expert (Timothy Hutton) well versed in the subject.

But David’s concerns don’t stop with understanding the mechanics of drug addiction. He wonders if there are things that he did – or didn’t do – in raising Nic that have prompted him to adopt his self-medicating ways. Did his divorce from Vicki have an impact? Was he too permissive or too controlling as a parent? Did his marriage to a new wife interfere with his relationship with his son? But, no matter how many questions David asks himself, there are no easy answers, and perhaps he needs to come to terms with the idea – painful though it may be – that the only one who is going to solve Nic’s problem is Nic.

Learning what it means to let go of something one can’t control is rarely an easy lesson, and it’s an issue that David must, unfortunately, address. Nic’s recurrent relapses and stints in and out of rehab wear heavily on the entire family, especially when it seems that the cycle of self-destruction is unending. David must learn when to be supportive and when to let his son work out challenges on his own, a difficult balance to strike for virtually any parent, no matter how old their kids may be.

At the same time, Nic needs to learn what it means to accept responsibility for his actions, even though the underlying cause may be something seemingly out of his control. He must discover what coping mechanisms are available to him and how to embrace them when the need arises, a definite challenge when the lure of drug-induced escape is always nearby and when the guilt associated with past hurts to oneself and to others hangs heavily in the air. Success in overcoming these issues is possible, but Nic must ask himself if he’s up to it.

However either of them fares in these pursuits, their success (or lack thereof) comes down to the underlying beliefs that are responsible for the manifestation of these circumstances. This is the cornerstone principle of the conscious creation process, the philosophy that maintains our thoughts, beliefs and intents serve to materialize the reality we experience. And coming to understand them is crucial to figuring out why our existence arises as it does.

[caption id="attachment_10226" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Worried parents David Sheff (Steve Carell, right) and wife Karen (Maura Tierney, left) struggle to figure out how to help their drug-addicted teenage son in director Felix Van Groeningen’s latest release, “Beautiful Boy.” Photo by Francois Duhamel, courtesy of Amazon Studios.[/caption]

As conscious creation practitioners are well aware, our reality emerges from where we place our concentration, a principle that applies for better or worse and regardless of whether or not we’re aware of doing so. Where David and Nic are concerned, for instance, they may not be cognizant of what notions are driving their manifestations, but they’re at work doing so nevertheless. Deciphering what’s going on is thus essential for coming to terms with what they experience, an especially critical concern if they wish to change what’s happening.

Such introspective analyses often require us to dig deep within our consciousness, to go below seemingly obvious considerations and examine what lies beneath the superficial. For instance, when David asks Nic why he does drugs, he answers that they make him feel better than anything else he’s ever experienced. That response may indeed be true, and it may very well provide the basis of the belief that creates his experience. But it also begs the question, why is it that he needs to do something like this to feel so good? Is there something about his reality without drugs that leaves him feeling bad or unfulfilled? If so, what is it, and what are the beliefs driving that particular manifestation? Can it be changed in a way that doesn’t call for the need to use drugs to overcome it? Indeed, can the beliefs responsible for an unsatisfactory existence be rewritten in such a way that Nic can attain happiness without having to use illicit substances to achieve it? Should he be able to do this, he might be able to find peace without the encumbrance of drugs getting in the way.

Admittedly, such deep personal analyses may not be easy, both for those who engage in them and those on the sidelines who are looking on. For the answers to come, Nic will have to do the work, and he’ll have to do much of it on his own. As for David, the difficulty might be just as great, given that he can’t really do much more than offer his support and watch. To be sure, that encouragement to succeed is vital, but the harder tasks ultimately fall to the one having to make the discoveries about – and alterations to – the beliefs responsible for manifesting the existence at hand.

For both father and son, an experience such as this is undoubtedly an important life lesson, one that’s just as driven by beliefs as everything else involved in this scenario. At the heart of both of their life lesson experiences is a matter of faith. For Nic, it’s faith in himself that he can conquer his demons and turn his life around. And, for David, it’s faith in his son that he can succeed at this task without him becoming directly involved in the process. In each case, the faith that they employ is, in itself, a form of belief, and the degree to which they embrace and adhere to it will determine how circumstances eventually play out.

Those who are convinced of the strength and validity of their faith, and of the beliefs that constitute it, are likely to see their convictions materialize. However, should their commitment to these notions be undercut by such influences as fear or doubt, they’re more likely to see disappointing or incomplete results. This is true not only in situations like those faced by David and Nic, but also in any conscious creation undertaking that any of us might attempt. In that sense, then, the experience of the elder and younger Sheffs provides an example – and a cautionary tale – to all of us in any of our manifestation pursuits, regardless of whether or not drugs are involved. However, if someone is able to overcome circumstances as challenging as these, then what excuse is there for any of us who claim we’re unable to surmount ventures of a less volatile, less intense nature? The lesson in this for us as viewers is just as important in any of the endeavors we attempt as those depicted herein on the screen.

Of course, much of the success we attain – no matter what we undertake – stems from the power of love, both that which we give to ourselves and that which comes from others. And, to be sure, it’s hard to discount the love that comes from a parent. There are indeed situations where parents could do more to show the necessary love that their children require, but, in many cases, it’s undeniable and should be cherished for what it’s worth. After all, without it, many of us would surely stumble and fall more often than we do—and under less trying circumstances than those depicted here.

Based on the books Beautiful Boy by David Sheff and Tweak by Nic Sheff, director Felix Van Groeningen’s latest offering provides an up-close look at the perils of drug addiction and the pain of parents learning to let go of their adult children. While the film is somewhat formulaic with a penchant for repetitiveness, this searing drama nevertheless makes its points abundantly clear and offers helpful suggestions about what the afflicted and their familiars can do under such conditions. What shines the most here, though, are the heartfelt performance of Carell and the riveting, revelatory turn by Chalamet, a portrayal far better than his previous (and much overrated) work. “Beautiful Boy” doesn’t break especially new ground cinematically or in its narrative, but it conveys its heartfelt message quite capably and effectively addresses an epidemic problem sorely in need of being brought under control.

The choices we face in life aren’t always easy. Sometimes we have to free ourselves of burdens that are more than we can bear. And, at other times, we have to take them on, particularly when they involve lessons of personal responsibility. However, such challenges are always easier to handle when we know that we have backing for what we undertake, even if it’s only in the form of moral support and encouragement, for the effects of such assistance will make their way through to those in need of it.

Now how beautiful is that?

Copyright © 2018, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 26, 2018

‘The Old Man & the Gun’ celebrates life, vitality

“The Old Man & the Gun” (2018). Cast: Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Tika Sumpter, Ari Elizabeth Johnson, Teagan Johnson, Gene Jones, John David Washington, Elisabeth Moss, Keith Carradine, Robert Longstreet. Director: David Lowery. Screenplay: David Lowery. Story Source: David Grann, “The Old Man and the Gun,” New Yorker magazine. Web site. Trailer.

What gives us personal satisfaction? That’s something many of us chase down throughout our lives, and some of us are fortunate enough to find it. But is this a quest we should pursue at any cost, especially if the goals are dubious? That’s a question posed in the new, fact-based biopic, “The Old Man & the Gun.”

Septuagenarian Forrest Tucker (not the actor) (Robert Redford) desperately wants to stay young, so much so that he actively looks for ways to help himself hold on to that feeling. But, instead of doing things like jogging, driving sports cars or going to singles bars – activities typical of aging men trying to preserve their youth in the 1970s – he’s found a pursuit uniquely his own: he robs banks.

Strange as that may sound, though, it’s common practice for him, given that he’s been doing it most of his life. Ever since he was a teen, Forrest has been engaged in various forms of crime, and he’s perfected his techniques to the point where he’s practically refined it as an art form. By employing his signature hold-up style of using incomparable politeness to defuse most of the tension typically associated with such situations, he’s able to carry out his heists without anyone ever getting hurt or firing a shot from the gun he allegedly packs in his overcoat. And he gets away with it every time, leaving the bank employees who freely execute his genial requests feeling unthreatened, if not outright calm.

[caption id="attachment_10214" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Incomparably polite bank robber Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford, right) charms virtually everyone he meets, including Jewel (Sissy Spacek, left), a widow whom he meets when he stops to offer her roadside assistance when she experiences car trouble, in the delightful new biopic, “The Old Man & the Gun.” Photo by Eric Zachanowich © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.[/caption]

With a string of successful robberies across several states in the Southern Plains, he’s become something of a charming legend. His extensive knowledge of police radio electronics helps him track when and how authorities are pursuing him, and his geriatric partners in crime, Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits), provide the necessary reconnaissance and diversions that allow him to carry out his plans. As the leader of the so-called Over the Hill Gang, Forrest scores big and often, thwarting those who want to track him down. It’s quite a scheme.

Considering how much money he takes in, one might think Forrest lives large, but such is not the case. He freely shares the spoils of his efforts with Teddy and Waller, and he lives a rather modest, low-key life in middle-class suburbia. Rather than flaunt the rewards of his success, he stashes most of his bounty for safekeeping or uses it to help those whom he cares about, such as Jewel (Sissy Spacek), a widow with car trouble whom he stops to assist while fleeing one of his bank capers. He takes quite a liking to the roadside damsel in distress, too, prompting him to start seeing her on a regular basis between robberies, always careful to keep the truth of his ways from her.

Needless to say, authorities are confounded that the kindly thief keeps getting away with his crimes. Time after time, the police are frustrated when they interview dumbstruck bank employees who are so overwhelmed by the perpetrator’s charm that they can’t help but comply with his requests. Most officials come to believe that, because of the wily criminal’s ways, they’ll likely never catch him. But not Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck); he’s convinced that the suspect can be collared with some good, old-fashioned police work – and a willingness to look past the polite magnetism that has so effectively clouded everyone else’s judgment.

[caption id="attachment_10215" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Incomparably polite and eminently fearless bank robber Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford, left) is so confident in his abilities to evade capture that he even goes so far as to taunt his would-be captor, Police Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck, right), in director David Lowery’s latest offering, “The Old Man & the Gun.” Photo by Eric Zachanowich © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.[/caption]

Thus begins a game of cat and mouse between Forrest and his pursuer. Can the constable get his man? Or will Forrest perpetually elude capture? And, if he is caught, can he stay locked up? As Hunt discovers during his investigation, his suspect has successfully escaped incarceration 16 times throughout his life. That’s quite a track record – and one that will be hard to challenge, even if the sly senior is captured and locked up.

Given how Forrest goes about his business, though, one can’t help but wonder, why does he do it? Why go to all the trouble of planning elaborate bank heists if he’s not going to enjoy the rewards of his efforts? And, considering his age, given what time he likely has left, why risk being caught or killed for a seemingly pointless life of crime?

As strange as all that may sound, however, Forrest sees his actions as anything but pointless. He may not employ his monetary gains to lead a lavish lifestyle, but he still gets something out of his actions. From his perspective, there’s much to be said for engaging in a pursuit that simply helps make one feel alive, regardless of the consequences and irrespective of how the fruits of one’s labor are put to use (or not put to use).

Forrest does what he does because it fulfills an urge, giving him satisfaction that other pursuits can’t. But how does he get away with it? On close examination, it’s apparent that his success at this “hobby” stems from the beliefs he holds about it, the building blocks of the conscious creation process, the philosophy the maintains we employ such thoughts and intentions in manifesting the reality we experience. Forrest may not have heard of this concept, but, based on his results, he’s certainly mastered its principles, as evidenced by the outcomes he achieves. He’s so supremely secure about the beliefs he holds about his abilities that he makes everything look easy. In fact, he’s so confident that he’ll pull off his schemes and evade arrest that he doesn’t hesitate to brazenly taunt the captor seeking to hunt him down. We should all be so rooted in our convictions about what we do.

[caption id="attachment_10216" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Teddy (Danny Glover, left) and Waller (Tom Waits, right), the supporting members of the Over the Hill Gang, a band of geriatric bank robbers who successfully knock off facility after facility, provide the reconnaissance required to carry out their plan, as seen in “The Old Man & the Gun.” Photo by Eric Zachanowich © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.[/caption]

But, again, why bank robbery? Crime legend Willie Sutton once said he held up banks simply because “that’s where the money is.” Maybe Forrest  drew from this plainspoken observation and followed in his counterpart’s footsteps just because he wants to experience the excitement, the adrenalin rush associated with such actions. Given Forrest’s advancing years, maybe he needs something like this to keep him young and vital, to feel like he is still, in fact, present in his own skin. And, since he goes about his business in a manner that minimizes the risk to himself and to others, perhaps he believes he can do this to get his thrills without anyone getting hurt.

In his own way, then, Forrest provides us with an inspiring example about facing our fears, not just when it comes to approaching tasks we might believe we can’t accomplish, but also about living life in general, free of the apprehensions that might hinder us in attaining what we want. This is a core principle when it comes to employing the conscious creation process, one that maintains staying locked in fear keeps us locked in place. Forrest would never allow this to hold him back, even when something as intimidating as prison bars stand between him and his objectives.

Forrest’s “avocation” may not be one for most of us. It’s difficult to sanction criminal activity under any circumstances. However, at the same time, one can’t help but admire someone who has the courage, forthrightness and fortitude to pursue what he believes is necessary to help him feel engaged with life, what it means to be an active and involved part of his existence. If nothing else, it certainly helps one avoid the regrets many of us may have for not pursuing what we want to do to accomplish that goal. That, for example, is a concern that Detective Hunt freely acknowledges about the nature of his own life. He worries that he’s wasting away his days in an unfulfilling job that doesn’t deliver the happiness and satisfaction he seeks, a concern he expresses to his wife (Tika Sumpter) and even his kids (Ari Elizabeth Johnson, Teagan Johnson).

[caption id="attachment_10217" align="aligncenter" width="300"]In what is said to be his cinematic swan song, Robert Redford gives a delightfully understated performance as septuagenarian bank robber Forrest Tucker in the new fact-based biopic, “The Old Man & the Gun.” Photo by Eric Zachanowich © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.[/caption]

Some might be worried that Forrest’s story carelessly glorifies criminal activity, and that’s certainly a legitimate concern. At the same time, though, it also makes the case for the value of chasing one’s dreams, even those of a questionable nature, if they lead to personal fulfillment. Life is shorter than most of us realize, especially when we’re young. Do we really want to approach the finish line feeling like we’ve squandered our temporal capital by playing it safe or squelching impulses that end up unfulfilled? Forrest’s story may take a backhanded way in making this point, but it’s a valid contention nevertheless, one we should all ponder before the clock runs out.

Director David Lowery’s charming and curiously inspiring tale about living life on one’s own terms, even when questionable activities are involved, entertains with charm, wit and gentle humor. In what is said to be Robert Redford’s cinematic swan song, the acting legend shines in a quietly understated role, one backed by an excellent supporting cast who know how to complement their colleague without outshining him. This delightful comedy-drama is a fitting tribute to round out a storied acting career.

In an age where many feel overwhelmed, if not numb, to an oppressive, claustrophobic world closing in on us, the desire to genuinely feel connected, even alive, may be equally compelling. This longing may lead to behavior aimed at breaking out of this encroaching cage, actions that some see as debatable, perhaps antisocial. But is it not preferable to maintain our personal sovereignty, even if disapproved by others, rather than capitulating to an act of personal surrender? In his own way, this criminal folk hero lived his truth, despite the consequences, as long as it allowed him to maintain his sense of self. And, with such an intention at stake, who can argue with that?

Copyright © 2018, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Movies, Movies, Movies on Facebook and Radio!

Join host Frankie Picasso and me for a full hour of Movies with Meaning on the next edition of The Good Media Network’s Frankiesense & More broadcast on a special day and time, Thursday, October 25, at 12 pm ET. We’ll discuss a number of new movie releases, as well as highlights of the recently completed Chicago International Film Festival. For the video version, tune in on Facebook Live by clicking here. And, for the audio only podcast edition, check out The Good Media Network’s home page by clicking here. Join us for some fun movie chat!

This Week in Movies with Meaning

Reviews of "The Old Man & the Gun" and "Beautiful Boy," as well as a wrap-up of the Chicago Film Festival and a radio show preview, are all in the latest Movies with Meaning post on the web site of The Good Media Network, available by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Wrapping Up the Chicago Film Festival

With the 54th annual Chicago International Film Festival now complete, here’s my take on what I screened and what I thought about the releases in question.

“An Acceptable Loss” (USA)

This edge-of-your-seat political thriller unfolds gradually and with steadily increasing intensity, leading up to a climax that will leave viewers breathless, an approach not unlike that used by director Roman Polanski in such films as “Chinatown” (1974) and “The Ghost Writer” (2010).

The picture follows former National Security Advisor Libby Lamm (Tika Sumpter) after she leaves government to become a university lecturer, a position for which she receives a less-than-hospitable welcome. It’s a circumstance that naturally begs the question, “Why?” Viewers come to discover the reasons as her story plays out, one that has multiple threads running through it, including her strained relationships with former boss President Rachel Burke (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her fiercely driven chief of staff (Jeff Hephner). Matters become further complicated when Lamm is stalked by a mysterious college student (Ben Tavassoli), one whose intentions are anything but clear.

Filmmaker Joe Chappelle positively knocks this one out of the park, thanks in large part to his tautly written script and fine performances by Sumpter and, especially, Curtis, whose portrayal is indeed award-worthy. Be sure to catch this one when it goes into general release in early 2019 – it’s that good. (5/5)

Web site

Look for a complete review in the near future by clicking here.

“The Extraordinary Journey of Celeste Garcia” (“El viaje extraordinario de Celeste García”) (Cuba/Germany)

This fun, delightful yet thought-provoking little comedy that fills much bigger shoes than what one might think at first glance. When Celeste Garcia (María Isabel Díaz), a retired teacher and volunteer planetarium docent who has led a largely frustrating life, is named part of an alien-invited contingent to visit their faraway world, she looks forward to the prospect of being able to start over. But is the offer all it’s cracked up to be? And is it what she really wants?

Those are the questions Celeste must wrestle with in this quirky but insightful offering full of colorful characters, offbeat incidents and absurdist humor, with ample symbolic political commentary thrown in for good measure. There’s more going on than meets the eye in director Arturo Infante’s feature film debut, so pay close attention and don’t be so quick to dismiss it as throwaway fluff. (5/5)

Web site

Look for a complete review in the near future by clicking here.

“Neurotic Quest for Serenity” (“Transfornada Obsessiva Compulsiva”) (Brazil)

This insanely hilarious comedy delivers relentless, off-the-wall laughs about the search for the meaning of life seen through the eyes of Kika (Tatá Werneck), a popular OCD-afflicted Brazilian telenovella star whose dreams and imagination begin spilling over into her everyday reality. And what a wild ride it is!

The film, which plays like a cross between “Hector and the Search for Happiness” (2014) and “Welcome to Me” (2014), follows her bizarre antics and her outrageous interactions with her high-powered agent (Vera Holtz), her oversexed co-star (Bruno Gagliasso), a compulsive stalker (Luis Lobianco), an enigmatic ghost writer (Pedro Wagner), a milquetoast book store employee (Daniel Furlan) and a vicious rival actress (Ingrid Guimarães). With a mix of manic pacing, absurd, wacky humor and colorful, inventive visuals, this offering is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

This directorial feature film debut from Paulinho Caruso and Teodoro Poppovic won’t appeal to everyone, but, for those who like their comedies with an edge, this one is definitely for you. The film is available for online streaming from 

Web site. Trailer.

Look for a complete review in the near future by clicking here.

“Styx” (Germany/Austria)

Despite some occasional pacing issues, this beautifully filmed, richly symbolic morality play set at sea sizzles with quiet intensity against the backdrop of beautiful ocean scenery. Susanne Wolff’s dramatic portrayal of a woman pitted against the perils of nature and the difficulty of hard ethical choices is riveting from start to finish. Director Wolfgang Fischer has produced a thoughtful, consuming release that will leave you drained, incensed and, one would hope, ultimately uplifted. (4/5) 

Web site. Trailer.

Look for a complete review in the near future by clicking here.

“The Trouble with You” (“En liberté!”) (France)

Director Pierre Salvadori’s hilarious French farce delivers big laughs from beginning to end, full of side-splitting twists and turns that will leave your belly sore by the time of the closing credits. This modern-day screwball comedy about a police woman (Adèle Haenel) looking after the welfare of a recently released inmate (Pio Marmaï) who was wrongly framed by her deceased crooked detective husband (Vincent Elbaz) is relentless in delivering giggles, chuckles and guffaws with material that’s fresh, original and inventive. Catch this one if you have an opportunity – you’ll walk away exhausted but sufficiently entertained. Winner of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival Directors’ Fortnight Award. (4/5)

Web site. Trailer.

Look for a complete review in the near future by clicking here.

“Mario” (Switzerland)

This somewhat overlong and occasionally predictable tale of forbidden gay love in a close-minded community (in this case, the world of European professional soccer) gets better as it goes along. Filmmaker Marcel Gisler’s latest release follows a fairly traditional formula until the last act, when it redeems itself with a wealth of heartfelt emotions and a few surprising twists and turns to help set it apart from other pictures of this stripe. Look past the minor shortcomings, and you’ve got an otherwise-solid love story. (4/5) 

Web site

“Animal” (Argentina)

Screenwriter Armando Bo’s second offering from the director’s chair starts out strong but, unfortunately, goes off the rails as the picture enters its final act. This story of a successful businessman (Guillermo Francella) in need of a kidney transplant who resorts to searching the black market when conventional channels fail tells an interesting tale of the lengths we can go to when our backs are up against the wall. Regrettably, as the narrative unfolds, the ante gets upped so much that credibility is lost as the director tries a little too hard to serve up satirical social commentary in the wake of personal desperation. It’s too bad that the filmmaker felt the need to brow-beat his audience when a little more subtlety would have clearly and more effectively sufficed. (3/5) 

Web site

“Sorry Angel” (“Plaire aimer et courir vite”) (France)

Think of this gay drama as a poorly crafted step-brother of “A Single Man” (2009), and you get a rough idea of what the film is all about. While this offering redeems itself somewhat in the second hour, its first half is rife with overwritten pretentious dialogue, a meandering narrative and painfully slow pacing. What’s more, much of the story line is uninteresting, unengaging and not especially credible, aspects made worse by the disjointed nature of the production’s execution. There are so many other (and better) releases dealing with this subject matter that you can easily skip this one and not miss anything. Despite the film’s many problems, however, director Christophe Honoré’s offering was a 2018 Cannes Film Festival nominee for the Queer Palm Award and the Palme d’Or, the Festival’s highest honor. (2/5)

Web site. Trailer.

“Transit” (Germany/France)

Director Christian Petzold’s meandering, pretentious, inarticulate screen adaptation of Anna Seghers’ novel is a mess almost from the outset. This tale of refugees trapped in Marseilles trying to flee the Nazi occupation of France retells this historic saga in a contemporary time frame, a half-baked attempt at commenting on Germany having to come to terms with its past while simultaneously speaking to the current European refugee crisis. One could say that it’s attempting to be “Casablanca” (1942) for the 21st Century. Unfortunately, the film’s convoluted mishmash of plot lines and undeveloped characters is presented with virtually no back story, jumping into its narrative without any context, meaningful character identification or hints about the confusingly anachronistic elements intertwined here. All in all, a poorly conceived offering feebly attempting to pass itself off as lofty arthouse cinema. Skip it. (1/5)

Web site. Trailer.

Copyright © 2018, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Check Out The Cinema Scribe

Tune in for the latest Cinema Scribe segment on Bring Me 2 Life Radio, Wednesday, October 17, at 12:45 pm ET, available by clicking here. And, if you don't hear it live, catch it later on demand!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

This Week in Movies with Meaning

Reviews of "Love, Gilda," "A Star Is Born" and "Venom," as well as a film festival preview, all in the latest Movies with Meaning post on the web site of The Good Media Network, available by clicking here.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

‘Love, Gilda’ salutes a comedic genius

“Love, Gilda” (2018). Cast: Interviews: Chevy Chase, Laraine Newman, Martin Short, Paul Shaffer, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, Melissa McCarthy, Lorne Michaels, Anne Beatts, Alan Zweibel, Michael Radner, Judy Levy.  Archive Footage: Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Gene Wilder, Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin, Buck Henry, Garry Shandling, G.E. Smith, Tom Schiller. Director: Lisa D’Apolito. Web site. Trailer.

It’s been said that the ability to make others laugh is one of the greatest gifts anyone can possess. Laughter lifts spirits, brings joy and, as the old adage contends, serves as the best medicine. That’s something a beloved, gifted comedienne successfully discovered for herself – on all of those fronts – as fittingly and lovingly depicted in the heartwarming new documentary, “Love, Gilda.”

Gilda Radner (1946-1989) broke ground on many levels. As the first cast member selected for the audacious new late night sketch comedy series Saturday Night (now Saturday Night Live) in 1975, Radner played a key role in redefining humor, TV and the American popular cultural landscape. With her warm, bubbly persona, combined with her talent for enlivening such memorable characters as crotchety, hard-of-hearing senior Emily Litella, opinionated Latina news commentator Roseanne Roseannadanna, spaced-out punk rocker Candy Slice, linguistically challenged TV reporter Baba Wawa and effervescent, overly imaginative preteen Judy Miller, Gilda became an overnight sensation and audience favorite. She left an indelible mark on the television world and the hearts of millions while inspiring countless aspiring comedians.

[caption id="attachment_10173" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Comedienne Gilda Radner (second from left) appears with staff writer Tom Schiller (left) and fellow cast members John Belushi (center), Dan Aykroyd (second from right) and Jane Curtin (right) on the set of Saturday Night Live, as seen in the heartfelt new documentary, “Love, Gilda.” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.[/caption]

But, in many ways, this came as no surprise, given that this talent seemed to come naturally to the Detroit-born comic. From early on in her childhood, Gilda was a cut-up, finding it effortless to disappear into comedic character and making others laugh, a gift she freely shared with friends and family.

What’s less known, however, is that this ability served a purpose other than entertaining those around her; it also gave Gilda a defense mechanism to protect herself from the criticisms of others. As a chubby child, she was frequently chided about her weight. But Gilda wouldn’t allow this to get her down; whenever she would be bullied about her chunky appearance, she’d simply make a joke about it, defusing the situation and turning things around on her detractors. This skill would later prove to be an important element of her professional success as well, one that she would readily make use of whenever she found herself in the middle of a routine that wasn’t working out as hoped for. By impulsively doing or saying something funny to compensate for such unfolding failures, she could successfully transform poorly conceived material into a source of uproarious laughs, allowing even the worst routines to sparkle and appear completely natural.

As Radner grew into adolescence and adulthood, she parlayed her talents into successes in high school and college productions, followed by stints in the Canadian company of Godspell and Toronto’s Second City troupe and then as a cast member of the National Lampoon Radio Hour. Through these involvements she met longtime friends and collaborators John Belushi, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Martin Short and Paul Shaffer. These experiences also provided the springboards for the immense success awaiting her during her five years as a cast member of Saturday Night Live.

Radner’s contributions to that show helped establish the legacy of a program that has lasted for over 40 years. As part of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players, she and fellow collaborators Belushi, Murray and Chase, along with her other colleagues Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman and Garrett Morris, set a standard that has endured and influenced the many cast members who have since become part of the show’s heritage. Interviews with Chase and Newman, longtime producer Lorne Michaels, staff writers Alan Zweibel and Anne Beatts, and subsequent show hosts and cast alumni Melissa McCarthy, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph reveal the tremendous respect, gratitude and admiration that they hold for Gilda and her comic contributions, all of them truly honored to have worked with her or follow in her footsteps.

Gilda’s accomplishments did not end with SNL either. She staged a tremendously popular one-woman Broadway show in 1979, and she subsequently went on to make five feature films, three of them (“Hanky Panky” (1982), “The Woman in Red” (1984) and “Haunted Honeymoon” (1986)) with co-star and future husband Gene Wilder (1933-2016). But, for all of the challenges she successfully took on through these endeavors, her greatest one was yet to come.

[caption id="attachment_10174" align="aligncenter" width="203"]Comedienne Gilda Radner (left) poses with comic John Belushi (right), one of her cohorts on the National Lampoon Radio Hour and Saturday Night Live, as depicted in director Lisa D’Apolito’s new loving tribute to the comedic genius, “Love, Gilda.” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.[/caption]

In the mid-1980s, Gilda began feeling tired and suffered from pelvic cramping. She sought medical help, which repeatedly concluded that everything was fine. However, as a subsequent CAT scan revealed, there was something very wrong – Gilda was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer.

According to those who knew Radner, she was initially woefully depressed. However, she soon realized that, if she were to beat this disease, she would need to tackle it head on. And, in typical Gilda fashion, she did so by employing the same tactic she used to take on her childhood detractors – humor. With the assistance of her SNL colleague Alan Zweibel, Gilda took the bold step to attempt something that no one had tried before – finding a way to make cancer funny.

Given the prevailing taboo about laughing at a debilitating, often-fatal illness, Gilda took a big risk with this venture. But, believing she had nothing to lose, she moved forward with her plan, making a critically acclaimed appearance on the comedy series It’s Garry Shandling’s Show in 1987 in which she lampooned her illness. This cutting-edge material raised some eyebrows, but it also successfully challenged one of life’s seemingly untouchable sacred cows. Gilda had thus broken through yet another barrier, the first comic ever to do so.

Unfortunately, Radner’s appearance on that show was her last time on TV. Even though the disease had apparently gone into remission, it came back. Gilda continued treatment, but fighting back became progressively more difficult. However, despite the lack of public appearances, Gilda wasn’t done yet. She wrote a memoir titled It’s Always Something, a reference to the signature tagline of her Roseanne Roseannadanna character. She also became actively involved with cancer support groups. Although initially reluctant to participate, she had a complete change of heart after attending a meeting at a wellness center. With the uplifting humor that made her so famous, Gilda picked up where she left off in this new venue. The stage may have been different and considerably smaller, but the impact she had there was just as important as what she accomplished in the limelight.

Through her involvement with these support outlets, Gilda left an impact that’s still being felt to this day. With the enthusiastic assistance of husband Gene Wilder, Gilda launched efforts aimed at encouraging ovarian cancer screening for women, especially those in high-risk groups. Her courageous battle against her illness also inspired the formation of Gilda’s Club, a nationwide network of affiliated clubhouses where cancer patients and their families and friends can meet to offer one another support and to discuss their circumstances. Thankfully, Gilda’s spirit lives on through these programs and institutions. And, because of that, she continues to prove, as she did in all of her other endeavors, that laughter truly is the best medicine.

[caption id="attachment_10175" align="aligncenter" width="300"]In happy times, comedienne Gilda Radner (left) shares the tremendous love she felt for husband and feature film co-star Gene Wilder (right), as seen in the heartfelt new documentary, “Love, Gilda.” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.[/caption]

Although she died young, Gilda packed a lot of living into her 42 years, and much of it involved her doing what she wanted to do. Despite the sometimes-unfavorable conditions that dogged her at various times in her life, she overcame these circumstances by doing what she did best – successfully drawing on her talents and abilities. She was so proficient at this both personally and professionally, in fact, that virtually everything she undertook succeeded brilliantly.

That kind of success stems directly from a firm belief in one’s capabilities, the kind of conviction that yields the sort of hoped-for outcomes made possible by the conscious creation process, the philosophy that maintains the reality we experience is a direct result of the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. It’s not clear whether Gilda knew of or ever heard of this concept, but, based on what she accomplished, it’s obvious she was a master of its principles. For example, from early on in her life, she knew she had a knack for making people laugh, and she drew upon this belief in herself for decades to come. Firmly ensconced in her awareness of her abilities, she grabbed the ball and ran with it, transforming herself into a legend in the process.

This is not to suggest that she didn’t experience challenges along the way. The aforementioned childhood criticisms about her weight, for instance, were a source of personal frustration and irritation, a creation that, at first glance, might seem to have served little purpose. But, despite the difficulties this caused, it had an upside, too, in that it pushed her to continue honing her comedic talents, humorously making light of those who criticized her. Indeed, sometimes subjecting ourselves to a little adversity serves to strengthen us in ways that we may not be able to envision or understand at the time we experience it, proof that our beliefs can work to our benefit, even when the impact of their manifestations isn’t readily obvious at the time.

By galvanizing herself in her beliefs and abilities, Gilda broke through fears that might have held her back. It enabled her to live courageously, to take risks that other might shudder at. And, in the process, it allowed her to smash through barriers that benefited herself, as well as those who followed in her footsteps. For example, Gilda was the first person to say “bitch” on network television. But, because this once-forbidden word was uttered by her character Emily Litella, censors saw its usage coming from a sweet old lady as benign, reasoning, “What harm could there be in that?” And, then, of course, there was Gilda’s lighthearted take on cancer, something that once would have been considered unthinkable. But, since she knew how to make this sensitive subject funny, she got away it and did so successfully, opening a door previously sealed tight.

[caption id="attachment_10176" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Gene Wilder (left) and Gilda Radner (right) appear on the set of their film “Haunted Honeymoon” (1986), one of three pictures they made together, as seen in the new documentary, “Love, Gilda.” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.[/caption]

Of course, if she was so adept at employing conscious creation principles, one might ask, “Why didn’t she manifest a better outcome for herself in the end?” As I have written on numerous previous occasions, Gilda’s reasons – like those of all of us – were her own, and it’s not our place to question why circumstances played out as they did. However, when we look at what came about from her influence in the time since her passing – the cancer screening programs, Gilda’s Club and a better understanding of the impact of using humor as an additional weapon in helping to fight illness – she left a meaningful legacy, one that transcended her tremendous accomplishments as a comedic talent. She did more than just make people laugh; she left a legacy that has touched countless individuals, including some who may have never seen any of her brilliant routines. That’s a lot to leave behind.

Like the protagonist herself, it’s hard not to like “Love, Gilda.” This heartfelt tribute to one of the comedy greats of the last century pays sincere homage to her body of work through footage of her routines and the recollections of those who knew her or followed in her footsteps. With a wealth of archive material (some of it quite rare) and interviews with an array of those who shared the personal and professional stage with Gilda, director Lisa D’Apolito’s feature film debut provides a comprehensive look at the comedienne’s life, one sure to evoke both laughter and tears and doing so in a way that genuinely earns those emotions. In addition, through voiceovers, readings and graphic displays, the film features excerpts from the extensive collection of personal journals that Radner kept, revealing, for the first time, her innermost feelings about herself, her work, her battle against cancer and her outlook on life. Through this combination of elements, Gilda comes back to life, even though, in many ways, it’s always felt like she never left us.

We’re all a little better off for having had this loving and laughing spirit spend some time with us, no matter how short, on this plane of existence. She made us smile, she made us cry, but she also made us happy. And we can never thank her enough for that.

Copyright © 2018, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Tune in for The Cinema Scribe

Tune in for the latest Cinema Scribe segment on Bring Me 2 Life Radio, Wednesday, October 3, at 12:45 pm ET, by clicking here. And, if you don't hear it live, catch it later on demand!