gives a completely different picture of the rotund film critic Roger
Ebert than most people probably had. The film starts with Roger in the
hospital in bed, unable to speak. In fact his jaw is gone but the skin
on his lower face is still there so he still has a mouth. But if you
look closely you can see that under the bandage that appears to be
around his neck, there is nothing behind it but air. Itís like looking
out a window. His mouth is always open in what looks like a smile
because there are no muscles or bone there to hold it in place.
Director Steve James was given extraordinary access to Roger by his
wife, Chaz, to make this film while he was dying. After the opening
scenes, the film flashes back to explain Rogerís life through quoting
from his book of the same name as the film, and with interviews with the
important people from his life, like Chaz and Gene Siskelís widow,
Marlene Iglitzen, and Donna LaPietra, the producer of the famous and
influential show he did with Siskel, Siskel & Ebert, and many
others, not the least of whom is Martin Scorsese.
film captures Ebertís good sense of humor, along with the tension in his
relationship with Siskel and the amazing love of his wife, Chaz, whom he
married when he was 50.
the story of a man and his life and what he had to face, despite all the
plaudits and fame. All phases of his career are shown through many
interviews. They make you feel, as one person in the film says, that
youíd like to sit down and have a beer with this guy. Particularly
revealing is his stormy relationship with Siskel, who was a film critic
for a competing newspaper. Getting two rivals together wasnít easy and
the resulting partnership didnít go at all smoothly. There are telling
outtakes from promos the two had to film for the show that capture the
tension in their relationship.
is also a film of a manís death, so it is also poignant and touching.
Chaz comes across as the woman for all the ages, the way she cares for
him. In fact, watching her devotion to her obviously dying husband was
so inspiring that near the end of the film I leaned over to the woman
sitting next to me and said, ďWhat a woman!Ē
cannot help but admire a man who faces what Roger had to face with such
bright spirits and determination. Whether or not you are a movie fan or
someone who likes to read reviews or not, this is a film for everyone.
Death will come to us all. We can only hope we can face it with the
courage and acceptance shown here by Roger Ebert.
was a surprisingly interesting and moving, even inspirational experience
for me, and not just because Iím a film critic. The courageous way he
faced and accepted death exceeded all his accomplishments, and this film
shows it all.