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How did a poor Jewish kid from Connecticut bring us Archie Bunker and become one of the most successful television producers ever? Norman Lear brought provocative subjects like war, poverty, and prejudice into 120 million homes every week. He proved that social change was possible through an unlikely prism: laughter. World Premiere -Opening night selection, Sundance, 2016.
I think I was expecting a lot more than what I got. I did learn something new about the man who created the best TV shows in history, but from what I already know, I really did not get anything new.
It's similar to another film that just came out about Brian De Palma. Both movies are a sit down that went over the long history of work by both men. Big difference with the Norman Lear version was he was not alone. He was promoting his book at the time of the doc and the doc had many people come in to kiss his ass and tell him that I would not be here if it was not for you. Not that he does not deserve those lips on his butt cheeks, but I have more respect for the De Palma flick as Brian did it alone and was more entertaining.
I'm sure many people went to see the movie because of the TV shows Lear has done and which I'm far more insightful on than I was with De Palma's work as it turns out, but De Palma, in his flick gave cooler behind the lens stories about some of his movies. Personal things told in a way that would not make a Wikipedia Page. This is what the Lear film lacks. That may have had a lot to do with the fact as Lear states in his film, he tried and made it with very little struggle in- between.
Should I have not expected that? No, I should have. I was thinking Lear was going to sit there and tell us a story about how Carroll O'Connor did The Hucklebuck before every All in the Family rehearsal for gook luck. They're was a lot of backstage footage from shows like Good times and the Jeffersons that was cool to watch but gave me nothing more than what I could read about the show.
The best moments of the film were clips from the shows he created. I mean as a showcase of his work it does work well. We see why people like Amy Poehler, Judd Apatow and Lena Dunham show up to pay respect (Hip hop mogul, Russell Simmons also shows up as a odd Representative for The Jeffersons, considering his only connection to the show is watching it on TV)
And of course, it was most insightful about Lear's political focus and his personal life. It's a showcase of an energetic man in his 90s and that hands down is impressive. The guy was having children until he was eighty and seems to still have the prep in his step, and there was that moment in the film where he was hanging out with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks and you realizes these guys are still working in their 90s! That's crazy.
I was also expecting more info on all of Lear's shows (as De Palma had something to say about each and every movie he made from mainstream to the most obscure). I know he produce shows all the way to the late 80s, but they only talked about the core success of All in the Family, Good Times, Maude and the Jeffersons (One Day at a Time was also a ground breaking show that was on the air around the same time but I guess was not as successful or iconic)
Instead the movie covered Lear's founding of People For the American Way which fought to separate religion and politics.
It was a good movie, I did learn something about the personal life of Norman Lear that I never knew (his relationship with his father and his first wife), as for his career, It was absolutely nothing I did not already know in the slightest. It was not even a different angle to what I already knew.
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