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SFF’14 Movie Review: “Life Itself”

January 28, 2014

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One wonders what famed film critic/author; Roger Ebert would’ve rated this film, a documentary about himself, focusing on his life, career, love — women & movies, and his illness. He’d give it thumbs up for sure, but would’ve suggested less of Gene [Siskel], and Gene, if he were alive today would’ve said, ‘not enough Gene’. That was Siskel and Ebert for you, one of the many elements of Steve James latest documentary covers.

Director, Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) takes audiences on a journey about the man, not the icon, as we follow Roger Ebert’s last days on Earth in hospital and at his Chicago home. In between these segments we explore the legacy of Ebert’s life: from his Pulitzer Prize-winning film criticism and his nearly 25 year-run with Gene Siskel. The two became the most influential cultural voices in America; we finally end it all focusing on Roger’s inspiring battle with cancer and the resulting physical disability he had to endure.

Ebert was a hopeful figure; show that no matter the state of health a person can be in, it could never stop them from doing what they loved. Even on the harshest days at the hospital, with Roger’s faith wife Chaz at his side, Roger saw a light at the end of the tunnel, a movie. All he want to do after all the grueling steps of care he required, Roger would insist on watching a new movie to watch. That’s something you have to admire, and puts a lot in perspective for everyday human beings.

Roger’s past is filled with plenty of juicy nuggets for people who’re simply aware of a man famous for reviewing movies. His particular taste in woman, his drinking habits, and of course “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls”. Many of you may not be totally aware of this, but the prestigious Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, was the screenwriter of a famous, schlocky, Russ Meyers movie. Meyers is of course well known for his low-budget skin flicks, something that Ebert simply couldn’t steer away from, his friends clearly stated that the draw for Roger to write a movie for Russ was simply…tits.

This was a documentary made for not only fans of Ebert’s work, but people who love movies, as much as Roger did. Take it with a grain of salt, but this was also a movie made for people dealing with loss, death, and grief. People die everyday, love ones come and go, “Life Itself” proves to us that we need to cherish the moments we have, and never look back with remorse. We must press on, and look at what the future holds, Roger did this, he didn’t fear death, even if his closest loved ones did. He laughed at the concept, knowing very well that he lived a full, adventurous, life.

GRADE: A

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