Life Itself | Film Reviews | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
DONATE
We need your help.

Newspapers and media companies nationwide are closing or suffering mass layoffs since the coronavirus impacted all of us starting in March. City Weekly's entire existence is directly tied to people getting together in groups--in clubs, restaurants, and at concerts and events--which are the industries most affected by new coronavirus regulations.

Our industry is not healthy. Yet, City Weekly has continued publishing thanks to the generosity of readers like you. Utah needs independent journalism more than ever, and we're asking for your continued support of our editorial voice. We are fighting for you and all the people and businesses hardest hit by this pandemic.

You can help by making a one-time or recurring donation on PressBackers.com, which directs you to our Galena Fund 501(c)(3) non-profit, a resource dedicated to help fund local journalism. It is never too late. It is never too little. Thank you.

Culture » Film Reviews

Life Itself

Roger Ebert documentary is a uniquely emotional experience

by

comment
Life Itself
  • Life Itself

Let's not even pretend there's a way for most film critics of my generation to evaluate Life Itself—Steve James' biography of film critic Roger Ebert, taking its title from Ebert's 2011 memoir—on any remotely "objective" basis. Personally, I owe my career to the generosity he often showed to young aspiring would-be colleagues. Watching Life Itself is like attending the memorial service for your idol; it's not a passive experience.

Yet that's also somehow fitting, because Ebert was never one who pretended that he didn't bring his quirks and preferences to the work of analyzing movies. Life Itself plays out in part as the story of his life as Ebert told it in the book—with the traditional archival footage and talking heads—but it also follows Ebert and his wife, Chaz, during the final months of his life, as the long struggle with cancer that first took most of his jaw along with his ability to eat and speak eventually took his life.

It's that mix of elements that makes Life Itself such a uniquely emotional experience. While the film spends time on Ebert's early years and the alcoholism he publicly acknowledged later in life, it also focuses on his prickly relationship with his TV partner Gene Siskel—including some very funny outtakes—and how hurt he was that Siskel kept his own terminal illness so secret. The parts of Life Itself that show Ebert's struggles with rehabilitation and other fallout from his illness feel like keeping a promise to himself to be open about the messier parts of his experience.

And that's why, even when James' documentary is bumpy or conventional, it captures something fundamental about the process of being thoughtful about art: It's a process of being thoughtful about life. As much as Life Itself is a memorial to its subject, it's a celebration of a particularly worthy way of being alive.

LIFE ITSELF

3.5.jpg

Related Film

Life Itself

Official Site: www.magpictures.com/lifeitself

Director: Steve James

Producer: Zak Piper, Steve James, Garrett Basch, Martin Scorsese, Steve Zaillian, Michael Ferro Jr., Gordon Quinn, Justine Nagan, Kat White, Mark Mitten and Vinnie Malhotra

Cast: Werner Herzog, Errol Morris, Martin Scorsese and Roger Ebert