Sunday, January 31, 2016

Life Itself

A retrospective on the life and work of Roger Ebert, from his childhood in Urbana, his time spent as editor of the Daily Illini, battles with alcoholism, his later in life marriage to Chaz Hammelsmith and his forty plus year career as the Chicago Sun-Times film critic where he often engaged in verbal war with television sidekick Gene Siskel and became known (with a large assist from the internet and social media) as the world's most influential film critic, all of which is intertwined with footage from his hospital room, during a relapse from major cancer bout which took his voice and lower jaw along with his ability to eat, in what would be the last few months of his life. Directed by Steve James (Hoop Dreams), produced by Martin Scorsese and joined by other friends (Werner Herzog, Ramin Bahrani, Ava DuVernay) whose careers its subject helped propel, Life Itself   draws from Ebert's memoirs and, in taking a similar warts and all approach, creates a funny, tender, shocking, and amusing documentary that probably couldn't have been constructed with more care or craft.
**** out of ****