Rated : R
Stars: Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert, Gene Siskel
Director: Steve James
Life Itself, the straight forward documentary about the life and times--and unfortunate death--of the world's most recognizable film critic, Roger Ebert, is difficult to watch. Well, about half of it is anyway. More on that in a moment.
It's always good to learn something you didn't know before, and what we learn here, in most entertaining fashion, is the real skinny on the relationship between Ebert and his longtime partner in crime, Gene Siskel. Siskel and Ebert was like an arranged marriage of two partners who initially seemed to hate each other, but later grew to respect, and yes, maybe even share a little love.
The show, which introduced the phrase "Two Thumbs Up" into our common vernacular, had all the overtones of a sibling rivalry between two adolescents constantly sniping at each other. The funniest part of Life Itself is the outtakes of the two of them trying to get through the taping of a promo for the show, too raunchy to ever be broadcast on network television.
But about half of the film, or so it seems-I wasn't counting minutes--shows Roger Ebert after his cancer surgeries. He was unable to speak, and there's no other way to honestly put this...he was grotesque looking. That he didn't mind being filmed in this condition showed that he wasn't going to let vanity get in the way of showing and telling his story exactly as it was, right up to the end. But after a while I just had to look away from the screen during the hospital segments.
As we look back on the life of Roger Ebert, and his collaboration with Gene Siskel, it reinforces one undeniable truth about the movies--and that is that there are no good films, and there are no bad films. It's all in the eye of the beholder.
Grade: B --