As someone who has been on a whirlwind adventure in writing exclusively about film for the past year, it was sincerely my pleasure and honor to see Life Itself this afternoon. Director Steve James brings a touching documentary to the audiences who grew up watching Robert Ebert tell them which movies were worth spending their time and hard earned money on. We are privy to passages directly from Ebert’s memoir of the same name, intimate interviews both on camera and via private emails between Steve and Roger, as well as sit down, one on ones with some of the people closest to this critical giant, including his wife, Chaz, director, Martin Scorsese, and Marlene Iglitzen, wife of his industry other half, Gene Siskel.
The elegance with which this film is presented is apparent throughout. There is not a false moment. I selfishly felt as if Roger were a member of my own family as I was sitting in that dark theater. He told James that he wanted to be a truthful as possible in this collaborative venture. I found it difficult to watch moments where Roger was clearly in agony and frustrated, which admittedly were few and far between due to his massive amount of positivity and soulful endurance. Almost always with a smile on his face, Roger was an exceptional human being. Whether openly debating the merits of a particular movie or interacting with fans all over the world, Roger Ebert was a treasure.
I cannot recommend this documentary enough. If you were a fan before, you will fall in love with this man when the lights come up once again. Tearful, joyous, brash, funny, heart wrenching, hopeful are only a few words in my vocabulary that I can use to describe what I experienced today. I am humbled as a writer, as a movie buff, and as a human being and to be half the fan of films and a mere fraction of a creative entity as Roger Ebert ever was.
Life Itself had it’s theatrical release on July 4th. It is also available On Demand and iTunes.