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  • To search for a review, click the three bold horizontal lines near the upper left corner.  In the search box, enter the movie’s title, or director, or screenwriter, or principal actor, or opening date, or even a key word.  Reviews by Harvey Karten are from select movies from February 2017 to the present.

ONE WILD MOMENT – movie review

ONE WILD MOMENT (Un moment d’égarement)

Under the Milky Way
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Jean-François Richet
Screenwriter:  Claude Berri, Lisa Azuelos, Lisa Azuelos
Cast:  Vincent Cassel, François Cluzet, Lola Le Lann, Alice Isaaz, Louka Meliava, Noémie Merlant
Screened at: Critics’ link,  NYC, 9/7/18
Opens: September 25, 2018 on VOD
Vincent Cassel and Lola Le Lann in Un moment d'égarement (2015)
When you see a guy about 45 years old in a New York’s expensive Per Se restaurant seated opposite a woman about half his age, how do you react?  Chances are you’ll guess that she is an executive assistant playing up to her boss, wouldn’t you?  Or do you think that the gentleman instigated the liaison and is, perhaps, exploiting the assistant such as we’ve all heard in the #MeToo complaints?  Jean-François Richet, who directs “One Wild Moment,” could have taken the latter stand, a satiric look at an older man taking advantage of the cute young thing, but instead, Richet, who makes a complete about-face since his previous work.  Richet’s “Mesrine”  stands today as one of the great cops and robbers thriller ever, yet voilá: Richet is equally adept with romantic comedy as shown in his “Un moment d’égarement,” which depicts an underage girl who may love to dance with guys about her own age but who seeks a mature man who is all of forty-five years old.

Louna (Lola Le Lann), the seductive young woman about sixteen years of age has her eye on Laurent (Vincent Cassel) who is well over twice the girl’s age and who is drawn into a sexual connection with Louna, one which he tries to avoid, but as they say, “A stiff penis has no conscience.”  If you are a frequent moviegoer you’ll recall the plot from the 1984 American movie, Stanley Donen’s “Blame It on Rio” starring Michael Caine and Joseph Bologna, which in turn is copied from Claude Berri’s classic 1977 work, also called “One Wild Moment.”  And why not copy, have sequels, give it your best shot when you have such a great premise; one which does not find the older guy preying on a young innocent but instead puts the blame not on Rio this time but on the young woman?

When Maureen Daly wrote “Seventeenth Summer” in 1970 about a romance between one Jack and one Angie, she did not have this idea in mind.  Her couple, in puppy love, are about the same age.  The age difference here makes all the difference, propelling “One Wild Moment” into a hilarious comedy of two middle-aged best friends, Laurent and Antoine (François Cluzet) who take their vacation in an old house near the beach in Corsica—which, as portrayed here, looks as close to paradise as you can get.  And the movie is blessed with one of France’s great actors, nay one of the world’s best and most versatile performers, Vincent Cassel in the principal male role.  Cassel’s character Laurent has a platonic interest in Louna, which is fine, except that his mild feelings toward her are beefed up.  Though Laurent’s own daughter, Marie (Alice Isaaz) becomes increasingly suspicious that her dad is a “pervert,” Laurent’s best friend Antoine is clueless.  When Antoine hears that a much older man may have deflowered his precious teen, he storms about, shouting that he will kill the guy just as he shot a wild boar (and killed a neighbor’s dog by mistake).  The film gets much of its humor from dramatic irony; the idea originating in Greek tragedy when the audience knows more than the characters.

The actual seduction is explicit featuring full frontal and back nudity for Louna (the actress who plays her is 22 so that’s OK) and, as usual, no such exposure in the male.  It’s a clear night, the water is pleasantly warm, the seduction is easy, or at least it looks easy despite Laurent’s belief that he could stop it at any time.

Some viewers whose commentaries and reviews appear in the ‘net say that they felt uneasy by the reverse Lolita effects, but the age of consent in France is fifteen, so the only problem is that Laurent could not possibly feel safe, dreading the moment that his friend will know the truth. For her part, Louna, whose home life is troubled because his father is about to separate from his wife, appears to get some joy in watching her mature man unease, his feelings of guilt.

So, don’t be troubled.  There’s nothing perverse here, at least in French law.  As Professor Henry Higgins states in Lerner and Loewe’s musical “My Fair Lady,” “The French don’t care what they do; as long as they pronounce it properly.”  Louna doesn’t care in the slightest, enjoying her satisfaction in losing her virginity to Laurent.  In fact, the entire story, so well photographed in gorgeous Corsica, is a dream of a comedy.

105 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – A-
Acting – A-
Technical – A
Overall – A-

ALL ABOUT NINA – movie review

ALL ABOUT NINA

The Orchard
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Eva Vives
Screenwriter:  Eva Vivas
Cast:  Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Common, Chace Crawford, Clea DuVll, Kate del Castillo, Beau Bridges
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 8/29/18
Opens: September 28, 2018
All About Nina - Poster Gallery
Life is easy.  Comedy is hard.  Does Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the title role prove the theory?  Yes and no.  Nina Geld (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) at first discovers the converse: that life is hard but comedy is easy.  She is having an affair with Joe, (Chace Crawford), a married cop, with whom she has sex multiple times but who slaps her around.  “He’s a cop. What did you think?” is more or less the way Nina describes the relationship.   She loves the sex.  She may even like the brutality.  We find out why later, near the conclusion of the film, but early on she has to get away from this guy. She moves to L.A. to escape and find a new life while continuing as a stand-up comic.

“All About Nina” is anchored by a powerhouse performance from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who appears in virtually every frame, an actress well known to moviegoers for such pics as Dan Trachtenberg’s “10 Cloverfield Lane,” where her character is held in a shelter by two men who claim that the world is falling victim to a chemical attack.  For her part, director Eva Vives has dabbled in experimental themes such as her recent “Swiss Army Man,” about a guy stranded in a desert island who befriends a dead body, moving on his way to get home.  “All About Nina” is not so unconventional but then again Vives is able to evoke a nuanced performance from Winstead in a story that begins as a comedy featuring Nina delivering sex-based shtick in a comedy club, and concludes with her coming to terms with her demons by exposing them to an audience  at the risk of her career.

After Nina moves in with her agent’s Mexican-American friend Lake (Kate del Castillo), a meeting that provides fodder for some comic touches, she meets Rafe (rapper Common, who has some 60 film credits), whose shaved head, full beard, and gentle demeanor may just bring Nina out of her funk She is able to spend time with a guy rather than write off all her boyfriends as one-night stands.  Continuing on her path toward a more secure career, she auditions with Comedy Prime’s boss Larry Michaels (Beau Bridges), a man who could launch a career beyond just comedy corners, but must compete against women for the one female shot in the show.

(Some may find it surprising that comedy houses like New York’s Comedy Central consider men to be funnier than women, even while we note that Nina is able to out-raunch the best of them in a motor-mouthed, sometimes hilarious patter about bodily functions.)

If Winstead is at the top of her game, Common is no slouch as Rafe, his gentle way of talking (surprising for the contractor he alleges he is) is not feeding her a line—knowing that a cynical Nina is familiar with the best of them.  It’s difficult to believe that a woman whose deep-seated problems, not discussed even with women friends, could lose her fear of intimacy with any male, but both the days she spends with Rafe and her final shot when performing at L.A.’s most important comedy house are able to exorcise her demons.  What’s more they propel Mary Elizabeth Winstead into the elite circle that may well consider her performance by various film groups right up to the Oscars.

99 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

FREE SOLO – movie review

FREE SOLO

National Geographic Documentary Films
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  E. Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin
Cast:  Alex Honnold
Screened at: Soho House, NYC, 9/13/18
Opens: September 28, 2018
Free Solo Movie Poster
When you hear the word “sports,” what comes to mind?  Most people in the U.S. would name football, though in Europe and South America, you would hear “soccer” or “futbol.”  Baseball comes to mind in the U.S., Japan and the Dominican Republic, horse racing if you’re from Kentucky.  If you went to prep school, it’s lacrosse, if you’re not into group sports, you’ll mention tennis.  If two players make too much of a crowd for you, what’s available for a single person?  Rock climbing, what else?  Surely you’ve heard of “Climbing” magazine and “Rock and Ice.”  Rock climbing is front and center in E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s doc, which not only fits well into the National Geographic mold, but forget for a second of Geographic’s animal safaris and consider Clair Popkin, Jimmy Chin and Michael Schaefer’s photography both more dangerous and more exciting than you’ll find on the Disney Channel or most other Geographic features.

The star of the show, multiple prize-winning, Alex Honnold, appears to have a death wish. The 33-year-old climber is among the lucky ones who have survived free solo action, which means ascending Yosemite Park (California) without a rope.  This means that the Sacramento-born spiderman, disregards the awful fact that many people indulging in this sports died in their forties and earlier, that one false move and you’re not going to get a backache: you’re dead.  Why does he do it?  That’s a question that we in the audience get some insight into, and which people closest emotionally to him try to answer.  His girlfriend, Sanni McCandless, who breaks down in tears the day before the free solo, worries “What if I never see him again?”  His mother, who would naturally be opposed to her son’s hobby just as my own mom forbade me to play high-school football, is resigned, saying that the lad could not survive psychologically if he could not climb.  She butts out of trying to change him.  His dad, afflicted with Asperger’s, never said he loved him, his mom never hugged him.  With the help of his cute girlfriend, he is learning to hug, but will probably never equal in that indoor sport his achievements on the peaks. Modern science delivers another motivation.  An MRI scan of his brain indicates that he does not feel fear, nor can he derive stimulation from anything less than extreme sports.

As though to insult McCandless, he affirms that he would always choose his outdoor sport over having a life-partner, and even the photographers, one with the biggest telephoto lens you’ve ever seen, wonder about the ethics of what they’re doing.  If he falls, would they want to capture the guy’s final exit?

The movie is part white-knuckle ride and part domestic drama.  As for the latter, we eavesdrop on his tete-a-tetes with his girlfriend, watch him cook and eat right out of the pots and pans (out of concern for the environment he appears to be vegetarian, even vegan). We don’t demand that the film’s star be articulate, and he peppers his speech with at least two or even three dozen invocations of “you know” (irritating), and even the teen favorite “like.”  All build up to his climb without rope in Yosemite National Part’s El Capitán, not only with no rope but with bare hands, challenging the gods to even dare to allow him to make the miniscule margin of error that would make this last climb.  Marco Beltrami’s apt score is probably not even needed: this is a thriller that would make “Vertigo” be an even better title.

96 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – A
Overall – B+

FAHRENHEIT 11/9 – movie review

FAHRENHEIT 11/9

Briarcliff Entertainment
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Michael Moore
Screenwriter:  Michael Moore
Cast:  Donald Trump, Michael Moore
Screened at: Digital Arts, NYC, 9/20/18
Opens: September 21, 2018
Fahrenheit 11/9 Movie Poster
In promoting an intellectually deep, emotionally charged drama whether in a book, a movie or a stage play, there’s no better slogan that a publicist can adopt than “You’ll laugh!  You’ll cry!” Yet from easily the best documentary film released so far this year, the most that you can say is that you’ll cry.  There is considerable humor along with the melancholy on display from our country’s most entertaining documentarian, Michael Moore.  But from the first riveting scene to the final compelling words, you can’t be blamed for wanting to cry your eyes out.  And that’s the strong recommendation one can make for this film.

When Andrew Cuomo campaigned for re-election as New York’s governor, one who would “stand up to Trump,” he stated that the slogan “Make America Great” is a falsehood; that America was always great.  Not so, Moore would reply, America was never great.  And that’s where the tears can flow, because from the penning of the U.S. Constitution by rich white male slave owners, giving us the absurdly undemocratic electoral college, our country has had to struggle to make inroads resonant for all the people, not just the billionaires and not just for rural folks who make the big mistake of thinking that Trump will solve their money problems and not go rogue by blaming race and immigration.

“Fahrenheit 11/9,” a title that cleverly switches the date of Moore’s previously movie “Fahrenheit 9/11” to refer to the announcement of Trump’s 2016 election victory, is a screed against the corruption endemic in our national politics.  The reference is also to Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel “Fahrenheit 451,” in which a dictatorship takes over the lives of the citizenry. Moore takes aim at Democrats and Republicans alike, criticizing so-called Democrat Bill Clinton for turning prisons over to private hands, cutting welfare from the checks of millions of needy Americans, and de-regulating banks to such an extent that we wound up with the greatest economic challenge since the Great Depression.  Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer could hardly be called reformers.  President Obama is chastised for deporting record numbers of undocumented immigrants and pretending that the water crisis in Flint Michigan has been simply blown up to the status of national scandal.  (In Flint, Michigan, he asks for a glass of water as though to show his disappointed audience that the water is pure.  He takes just a sip.)

Still, most of Moore’s animosity goes to the Republicans, especially people like Rick Snyder, a reactionary governor of Michigan, who made nice with corporate power by building a pipeline that would bypass the pure water of Lake Huron to a separate, corroding line,that poisoned the output to the most poor, mostly African-American community.

Trump is the obvious principal target of Moore’s scathing criticism, so demonic that the doc plays archival film of Hitler with Trump’s voice replacing that of the last century’s most evil monster.  You would not be entirely wrong if you thought that this was overkill, that the “It can’t happen here” now longer applies, but there is an eerie sense that the rallies that Trump conducts, his preferred means of communication to his base coupled with his avoidance of press conferences, are a prelude to total dissembling of even what has passed for democracy in our union.

Perhaps his most controversial view is that the reason so many registered voters stayed home on that fateful day in November of 2016 is not apathy or laziness, but a giving up, a surrender to the idea that standard politics is so demented, so unrepresentative, that there’s nothing anybody can do.  In that regard, Bernie Sanders comes across as Moore’s hero, a fellow who, unlike Trump and unlike Hillary Clinton, tells it like it really is but gets shafted by the Democratic National Committee intent on giving Hillary the nomination.

Yet there is hope. Look at what’s going down in some of the red states.  In West Virginia, teachers are so fed up with their miserable wages, with their need to take two and even three jobs to make ends meet, that they succeeded in striking for five days and winning the reasonable raise for which they asked.

As though to nail home points that might have seemed peripheral to the anti-Trump camp, he virtually calls the president a perv, showing a succession of pictures with Trump and his daughter Ivanka at various states in her growing up giving each other affection that might look as though a rich boss is cavorting with his young secretary.  It did not help the president to say that if Ivanka were not his daughter, he would be dating her.

In Stanley Kramer’s movie “On the Beach,” a nuclear bomb has exploded in the North, the radiation heading toward Australia which is still habitable.  The final scene shows a Salvation Army street poster with the hopeful message, “There is still time…Brother.”  Is there?  Are we headed—like climate change—to the point of no return, or can we avoid the mistakes made by Germany’s progressive Weimar Republic when 32% of the electorate voted for the Nazi Party?  If the American voters turn out in great numbers, the Democratic Party victories would be shoo-ins, since after all, we are a left-leaning nation with a majority favoring Medicare for All, proper regulations of guns, free public colleges, and reproductive rights.  Or so Moore says.

There is much to ponder in a film that makes its 126 minutes pass like an entertaining look at an America currently in a dystopian free-fall.  Michael Moore’s hard-hitting, hard left project has not a single dull or irrelevant moment and, like Bob Woodward’s latest book “Fear” is a clearly-reasoned, cleverly edited broadside punctuated by the year’s most awesome musical score.

126 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – A-
Acting – A-
Technical – A
Overall – A-

306 HOLLYWOOD – movie review

306 HOLLYWOOD

El Tigre Productions
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Elan and Jonathan Bogarin
Screenwriter:  Elan and Jonathan Bogarin
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 9/19/18
Opens: September 28, 2018

Many of us genuflect to celebrities as though you don’t put your pants on one leg at a time if you’re playing in a rock band or acting in a movie or serving as the President’s clown-attorney Giuliani or being an online film critic.  At the same time we wonder whether anybody important really cares about us; anyone, at least, apart from a handful of family members and friends, since Bob Mueller has more chance of being this year’s Time magazine person of the year than any of us. Along come Elan and Jonathan Bogarin who say, wait, hold on, you’re a little person but your history is just as important as Elvis’s.  That may be difficult to take in, so, let’s see if the Bogarins can document this, can prove this to us in at least to the tune of a single, 94-minute documentary.

“306 Hollywood” is the title taken from the address of a woman who lived there in Hillside, New Jersey for 67 years.  In a country that finds Americans on average moving every 5 years, this resident is an outlier.  Specifically the woman is Annette Ontell, a dress designer whose home life has been captured in film and video for the past ten years by her grandchildren.  The tapes show key points  in Annette’s life not as you filmed your own parents and grandmother but as her grandchildren, Elan and Jonathan Bogarin, did.  How so? They use a number of surreal touches, perhaps because they could not believe their own grandmother could be of interest to anyone not in her circle of family and friends. Truth to tell, she is not far outside the ordinary, using her home sewing machine to create dresses for rich people, then preparing exact knockoffs for her own use.

With some creative interruptions, the Bogarins bring in shots of their trip to Rome, honing in on Jan Gadeyne, an archeologist, who appears to think that digging through your own home is the equivalent of finding the Dead Sea Scrolls or a dog buried along with his royal Egyptian master.  So dig they do.  It’s a good thing for them that Annette was a pack rat, or how else could they bring home a story without uncovering decades of detritus from the house?  This helps them to believe that their grandmother, who died in 2011, was still there. (Annette was Jewish, and therefore her soul, or nephesh, continues residing in the house for 11 months during which time the family recites the mourner’s kaddish, or prayer.)

They did not come up with buried gold but they did retrieve a Nikon camera, a stack of old radios, several toothbrushes, and should they be injured while digging there were boxes of Band-Aids, though only one contained bandages, the rest just some coins that could possibly be put through TD bank’s change machines and converted to a hundred dollars in bills.

It must have pleased the grandchildren that, while they could not see their grandmother either during the 11 months, her neshama, or soul, remained in 306 Hollywood.  That’s not the only way Annette benefits.  Later, physicist Alan Lightman, whose best-seller “Einstein’s Dreams” is a seminal examination of physics, opines that granny’s atoms and molecules would remain forever, maybe even traveling to faraway places with strange-sounding names.  They use a telescope, a large one that they never noticed before, as a metaphor for a time machine, giving us a look at actors impersonating the dramatis personae of the house, including a son who kvetches that his job sucks and who is told by his mother that we all suffer, that he is not a modern Job.

There’s just the right amount of quirkiness, including a show by fashion models dressed like women of the forties, dancing about the outside of the house with grandma’s creations. Ultimately, while the filmmakers may want you to believe that watching this movie will make you think of the people that you lost, they may be reaching out much more than a mile from 306 Hollywood.

94 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B-
Acting – B
Technical – B+
Overall – B

THE SISTERS BROTHERS – movie review

THE SISTERS BROTHERS

Annapurna Pictures
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Jacques Audiard
Screenwriter:  Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain based on the novel by Patrick Dewitt
Cast:  John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rutger Hauser, Carol Kane
Screened at: Park Ave., NYC, 9/17, 2018
Opens: September 21, 2018

There are no Indians in “The Sisters Brothers,” though it’s only 1851 in the Oregon territory, just seven years before that beautiful entity became a state.  You don’t need the Native Americans, because the native white people are happy enough killing one another. In fact the happiness comes not only from the exhilaration that some feel when they take down a fellow but from the money that’s available should you practice the profession of hit man.  If you’re looking for a Western with characters resembling Hopalong Cassidy, Tom Mix and Gabby Hayes, this movie is not for you.  I’m not entirely sure it’s for me either.  While watching, I kept thinking of the mindless old horse operas with the cavalry that comes along just in time, blowing the bugles and saving the exploitative white guys from the people who were here first.  Though the territory comes across as the West, this is more a character study of two brothers, an older one, Eli Sisters (John C. Reilly) who is on the cusp of maturity and does not like taking too many chances, and a young ‘un, Charlie Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix) who is regularly drunk and reckless.  The pair are hired by Commodore (Rutger Hauser), offering a bounty for delivering Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed), a chemist, aiming to torture him until he gives up a formula for a chemical that lights up the water, making it easier to find gold.  We’re looking at the mid-19th century gold rush.  Despite the shootings that crop up loud and clear in the beginning, middle and end of the film, director Jacques Audiard’s aim in using Patrick Dewitt’s novel is to evoke dark comedy, though truth to tell, it’s too light to be a serious look at the murderous lives of hitmen and too heavy to be even a comedy, even a dark one.

Jacques Audiard is a French director whose “A Prophet,” dealing with a young Arab man sent to a French prison was arguably the best foreign feature of 2009.  But this time Audiard takes his chances with an English language movie, though the characters in 1851 are speaking modern English and one guy, Detective John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), speaks with a ridiculously highfalutin accent.  For his part, Morris is sent to capture the chemist but instead bonds with him particularly because the man promises to deliver the gold and to split the proceeds with him.

We see that the brothers are living like hoboes and that perhaps that’s the style of the Wild West.  In fact when they reach San Francisco and go to a hotel, they’re amazed at flush toilets and sinks that supply water.  Both treat toothbrushes like new found toys, as Eli Sisters, who takes on the role of chief comic character, has fun brushing what are undoubtedly no longer pearly whites while reading instructions on the technique.  One of the cute bits finds Eli in a bordello giving the hooker a shawl, which touches the woman’s heart to such an extent (men have not heretofore been kind to her) that she leaves Eli and goes downstairs.  In one instance a bug crawls into Eli’s mouth while he is sleeping afflicting him with an illness.  But that headache and nausea are nothing compared to what happens to the two when they wade into a water that has been treated with the chemist’s liquid.

The movie plods from one scene to another as though proud that this is not a stereotypical western with Indians, cavalry and settlers.   Since apparently nothing in the U.S. can show the West the way it should be shown in 1851, Romania and Spain serve for the locations.

121 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – C+

LOVE, GILDA – movie review

LOVE, GILDA

CNN Films
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Lisa D’Apolito
Cast: Chevy Chase, Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Melissa McCarthy, Lorne Michaels, Paul Shaffer, Cecily Strong, Laraine Newman, Rose Abdoo Alan Zweibel
Screened at: Park Ave., NYC, Sept. 10, 2018
Opens: September 21, 2018
Love, Gilda Movie Poster
Life is easy. Comedy is hard. That’s an old saying that brings to mind many exceptions wherein comedy is easy but life is hard.  Think of Robin Williams, the funniest guy around.  Just looking at him can make an audience smile.  “Good Morning Vietnam.”  “Mrs. Doubtful.”  And no slouch at serious stuff either. Yet he hanged himself.  Now think of Anthony Bourdain.  Not a comic, though many of his episodes are humorous.  Had lunch with President Obama.  Had a job to die for, traveling the world, eating up a storm. Top rated shown on CNN.  He hanged himself as well.  What does this show?  Simply that you never go what’s going on in private lives.  Actors and comedians who are exuberant on stage are melancholic or downright depressed off, which may be why so many have been addicted to hard drugs.

Now think of Gilda Radner.  She was a charter member of Saturday Night Live.  She was as popular with the stars as she was with her audiences, dating many, until she went head over heels for Gene Wilder, the true love of her life.  Yet she had eating problems, her weight disappearing below the 100 pounds mark.  She was finally rescued by Wilder, who got her interested in again, which by extension could mean that people who starve themselves are missing something important in their lives, or rather, someone important.

Lisa D’Apolito, who appeared once as an actress in “Goodfellas” heads off into directing territory in her freshman work, “Love, Gilda” is not shy of depicting the sadness in the comic’s life, ending with Gilda Radner’s death from ovarian cancer at the age of forty-three.  Most of the doc, which features Radner in a number of funny characterizations, is a joy to watch.  We can see how Radner, one of the great funny people of a past generation brought up on the beginnings of SNL (Saturday Night Live), notes that the best way to cover up sadness is with comedy, just as a good laugh by any of us can dispel a host of demons.  She loved her audiences, whether putting on a one-woman show on Broadway (we see a full house, orchestra, balcony, second tier and above) giving her a standing ovation, one which must have gone far in giving Radner confidence given her fear that an audience on the Great White Way might be bored without a full cast.

The talking heads are folks familiar to most of us, at least to those above the age of twelve, their
commentary woven well into the story so we do not have to face the prospect of watching guys sitting in their chairs and pontificating.  The movie is loaded with clips of the title character in a variety of shows as the marionette wife of the fictitious Howdy Doody; as the bimbo-ish Roseanne
Roseannadanna; as the woman who gets fired from her job in a burger joint because customers did not  like a sample  of her abundant  hair with their fries.

Director D’Apolito finds that Rander’s lifelong melancholy may have been caused in her youth at the death of her father who died  while she was still young, the man who encouraged her pantomime without which she may have become an office worker or a nurse, catering to a relatively small group of people rather than to the tens of millions who watched her on TV and in the theaters.  Archival films show her to be a girl who refused to take life seriously, to laugh because it lightened her spirit and because she would do anything to make others laugh as well.

The film opened the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, perhaps because it was the ideal pick in which forty-six percent of the films are directed by women.

86 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B+