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
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+