This wonderful documentary is the story of Roger Ebert's life and eventual death. It begins with Ebert's childhood in Illinois and tracks through his college years, his early career, his struggles with alcoholism, the fiery relationship with Gene Siskel, his late in life marriage and, in scenes interspersed through out the linear narrative of the above, his fight against cancer and his ultimate death. It's a really, really great movie. It has a ton of really wonderful stuff in it. I particularly loved all the time spent on the Siskel/Ebert relationship. The film also handles the relationship between Ebert and his wife Chaz really well. The scenes of Ebert's struggle against cancer could very easily feel exploitative, but they don't. That's, frankly, due to the outsized personality of the main character here. The film isn't hagiographic; it discusses Ebert's very much type-A personality and in a couple of behind the scenes clips from the Siskel & Ebert TV show, both men come off as petulant, entitled jerks. But God help me if I didn't love them more because of those moments. Anyway, Steve James directs and edits the film really well and it is genuinely affectionate and warm even as it dodges the maudlin sentimentality that would have sunk the film. It's great to get to know Ebert even more than I, as a movie lover, felt I already did. His passion for both film and writing, two of my great passions, comes across really well. And the film is genuinely inspiring as you catch Ebert's passion. It's corny to say, but you really feel the spirit of the man and his zest for life. I know, this all sounds incredibly hokey and silly, but the film really works. It's often funny, occasionally heartbreaking and always engaging. It's over two hours long and it really flew by. I almost missed this film. I saw it the very last time it played in a theater anywhere in the state. I'm glad I prioritized it on that last evening of its run. Great movie. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
Je n'aime pas dans les vieux films américains quand les conducteurs ne regardent pas la route. Et de ratage en ratage, on s'habitue à ne jamais dépasser le stade du brouillon. La vie n'est que l'interminable répétition d'une représentation qui n'aura jamais lieu.