Friday, November 27, 2015

Movie Review: Call Me Lucky

Call Me Lucky
Directed by: Bobcat Goldthwait.

Call Me Lucky is a documentary about standup comedian Barry Crimmins – who was obviously influential and respected, which you can tell by just how many comedians show up in the film to sing Crimmins praises. Crimmins is not the household name that many of those in the film are – and watching the film, I kind of understood why. Crimmins, it seems to me, was never actually very funny on stage. He was righteous and angry – he screamed at the audience about the evils of America and Catholicism, and always had an opinion on everything. He is incredibly smart and has no patience for fools. But watching his act through the various clips throughout the film, I’m not sure I ever actually laughed very much, if at all. There are reasons for this – which the documentary eventually makes clear – at about the half-way point of the movie, which also acts as a shift for the film in general, away from comedian profile doc, into something darker and more disturbing.

The film was directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, a longtime friend of Crimmins, who helped the younger Goldthwait at the beginning of his career. Goldthwait has become a very interesting director in recent years – giving his friend Robin Williams one of his last great roles in the very dark comedy World’s Greatest Dad, extending to middle finger to everything wrong with his country in God Bless America, which is more than another screed against reality TV, and also making one of the best Blair Witch knick-off with Willow Creek. Perhaps it was inevitable, but in his first documentary, Goldthwait doesn’t show the same daring he has done in his fiction films to day – opting for effective, yet safe, collection of talking heads and archival footage to show Crimmins early career, in which he had more success than many standups – but not quite as much as some of the others in the film.

The film shifts at the halfway point, when the darkness that was undeniably hanging over the first half becomes apparent, with Crimmins acknowledging that as a child, he was repeatedly raped by the boyfriend of his babysitter. Crimmins didn’t reveal this to his friends until the 1990s – when he started to talk about it on stage. Crimmins would eventually get involved in fighting child pornography – he even testified to Congress about how little AOL was doing to stop the proliferation of it. He remains an advocate for victims to this day – as the documentary makes clear. The second half of the film shows an older Crimmins on stage – getting few laughs than ever before, but completely baring his soul to people amidst his rather easy jokes about American Foreign Policy and the Catholic Church. He still wasn’t very funny to me, but there’s something touching about him up there.

Call Me Lucky is an interesting film about the life of a standup comedian, and then another interesting film about the life of child sexual abuse survivor – who has never forgotten what was done to him, but also didn’t allow it to destroy him. The film does go on a little long – it is overly repetitive, and loses steam near the end. But it’s a solid documentary – and not quite what you expect it to be.

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