I love(d) Roger Ebert. I really did. One day his twitter account announced his cancer had returned and next thing they tell us he had passed away. It was truly sad. He was the only critic whose reviews I looked out for. In fact, since he passed away, I can’t say there’s a particular review I look out for. I heard there was a documentary about his life at this year’s Sundance festival and it was a no brainer whether or not I was going to see it. It hit theaters and VOD last Friday but I was stalling. I was stalling because I just knew there was no way this documentary wouldn’t be heart wrenching.
I finally watched it and yes, it was as heart wrenching as expected. I can’t say enough how well done this documentary was. Roger himself chose who would do the documentary, Steve James and filming began 5 months to his death at a rehab facility after yet another surgery.
Sometimes, the mark of a good documentary is when you are able to learn something new that you didn’t about the subject matter, especially when it is a prolific subject matter. We got to learn about Roger from when he was born to his death. We learned about his childhood, his love of movies, his battle with alcohol, his strife with Gene Siskel, his marriage and love for his wife, Chaz who was also a big part of the documentary.
I call this documentary a love story. A love story between Roger and his wife and a love story between Roger and his life. He truly lived life to the fullest doing what he loved. I loved how real it was. We saw everything. Steve James did not try to make him look like an angel and even the interviewers were honest about his strengths and his flaws. We also saw him wincing in pain in the hospital as what was left of his jaw was suctioned. It really was tough watching a man who used his voice for a living be reduced to a machine speaking for him but even then he was still full of life.
There were many tender moments provided to us in the movie. It was nice to hear of the love story between Chaz and Roger that began when he was 50. Chaz recalls him saying “I waited almost half my life to find you and I am never letting you go”. It was also nice seeing how he embraced her kids and grandkids and vice versa and how emotional they got talking about him. You couldn’t see any color difference (Chaz is black) just a whole lot of love. There was also a touching story recounted by director, Ava Duvernay.
I was filled with glee as Roger watched 56 Up and was explaining the concept to his grand daughter. It was yet another example of why I liked him because I too loved the series (I have recommended it here before) I held it together and was surprised I did not cry. But at his funeral, where everyone took a moment to put a “thumbs up” sign, that had me choked up.
I think anyone would enjoy this movie, fan or not. It truly was a good dedication to his life. Every year, Roger Ebert had a top 10 list of his best movies of the year starting since 1967 till 2012 (the director of this movie had the 1994 #1 movie, Hoop Dreams). The movie has made me want to go back and watch every movie that was #1 on his list. Wish me luck! Overall, I’d recommend the movie but I’d say it can wait for dvd.
Rest in peace Roger Ebert, you will forever be remembered.