Cinema Review: Life Itself | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Life Itself

Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Directed by Steve James

Jul 09, 2014 Issue #50 - June/July 2014 - Future Islands
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The structure of Life Itself—the documentary on Roger Ebert—recalls an Ebert favorite Citizen Kane: we meet its subject at his physical nadir and are then taken back through all the good, the bad, and the ugly that makes up a life. Some details are well known—his alcoholism, his winning a Pulitzer—others, less so: finding love at 50 with Chazz Ebert—perhaps his greatest weapon in his fight with cancer—and a rivalry with Gene Siskel that may never have completely dissipated.

Siskel and Ebert’s prominence helped launch the careers of Errol Morris, Martin Scorsese, and Life Itself director Steve James, whose Hoop Dreams was championed by the Chicago duo. But while James’ masterpiece Hoop Dreams remained taut over four hours, Life Itself feels unwoven and oversaturated with facts, undoubtedly the result of reverence towards its subject. But as Ebert understood that even a word like “rosebud” can’t fully explain a man’s life, a single film can’t explain his. Still, for fans of the late critic, Life Itself will succeed as a warm reminder.

Author rating: 6.5/10

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