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+

LOVE, CECIL – movie review

LOVE, CECIL

Zeitgeist Films in association with Kino Lorber
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Lisa Immordino Vreeland
Screenwriter:  Lisa Immordino Vreeland
Cast:  Rupert Everett, (narrator). Cecil Beaton, Hamish Bowles, Leslie Caron, David Hockney, Isaac Mizrahi
Screened at: Critics’ link, NY, 6/15/18
Opens: June 29, 2018
Love, Cecil Poster
“I’m an ordinary man,” explains Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady” to his best friend Col. Pickering, “Who desires nothing more than just an ordinary chance to live exactly as he likes, and do precisely what he wants. An average man am I, of no eccentric whim, who likes to live his life free of strife, doing whatever he thinks is best for him. Just an ordinary man.”  Of course Higgins was not what he claimed.  Now imagine a person who really does fit the bill as “an ordinary man.” You would be imagining the very opposite of Cecil Beaton, who won Oscars in both production design and costume design for “My Fair Lady” helping to make that musical one of the Broadway icons of the last century.

In Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s love letter to Cecil Beaton, she affords us a look at the career and inner life of an extraordinary man, a man who has created color, imagination, and fantasy; in short a vivid look at all that is beautiful about life.  A Renaissance person who could not sit still and focus on a single career, Beaton was above all a photographer, but exceptional as well as a theatre set designer, a creator of costumes, a lighting designer, and even an actor who appeared in Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermeer’s Fan.”  Not mentioned by this film which, after all, limits itself to a mere 99 minutes, he designed the sets and costumes for a production of Puccini’s “Turandot.”

Vreeland, in her métier as a person who made documentaries on Diana Vreeland and Peggy Guggenheim, is obviously a great supporter of the artist, who died in 1980.  She might be accused of being in love with Sir Cecil Walter Hardy Beaton CBE, though she does point out an unfortunate incident in which Beaton, who published six volumes of diaries, used the word “kike” on one page of Vogue magazine, perhaps the most obscene term used by anti-Semites to describe the Jewish people.  Beaton tells the camera that he has no idea why he wrote this, that he is not anti-Jewish (never mind that a good segment of the British upper classes at the time were indeed), and that he regrets that Vogue had to shred thousands of copies and fire him.

We become privy to vast array of Beaton’s portraits in black-and-white and color and to a few segments of the colorful “My Fair Lady” and “Gigi.”  In the former musical, the song “Ascot Gavotte,” which portraits the British upper class at a racetrack saying how positively ecstatic they are when the horses are running, though with the stiffness and lack of emotion that have become stereotypies of the upper orders.

Of his loves, he cites Greta Garbo, who surprised Beaton by allowing him to photograph the woman who “vant[s] to be left alone.” As the official photographer of the Queen mother,  he is overcome with emotion as he is invited to photograph Queen Elizabeth II in a series of shots that went way over the time limit he is granted.  He left behind photographs of his two male lovers, and cautiously tells us that he did not get along with George Cukor, who directed “My Fair Lady,” and for some reason hated Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

See this on the big screen where you can best revel in the gorgeous costumes, vivid set designs, dramatic sketches and portraits, and snippets from two of the all-time great Broadway musicals.

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

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