Sundance Film Review: Life Itself

Posted January 21, 2014 in
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Photo courtesy of: Kevin Horan

Life Itself
Sundance Film Festival
Director: Steve James

If you were a film critic or essentially anyone in the film industry on April 4, 2013, you took a minute to pause and respect the memory of film critic, Roger Ebert. I know I did. As the first film critic to ever win a Pulitzer, Roger Ebert became the face of movie criticism, but his smiling demeanor had a history of mesmerizing tales, personal anguish and laughable escapades. Director Steve James was granted access by Ebert himself to capture what would be the last five months of the icon’s life. Viewers are brought into Ebert’s hospital room and witness the writer’s charisma though his text-to-speech laptop, but are also made aware of the horrendous pain he endured. It’s heartbreaking witnessing someone you admire so much go though such agony. Interlaced with the hospital visits, Stephen Stanton narrates passages from Ebert’s memoirs, “Life Itself,” as James unearths stories from the glory days with photos and vintage video clips. We follow the timeline, as Ebert became the Editor-in-Chief of the University of Illinois’ The Daily Illini, to becoming the Chicago Sun-Times’ Film Critic after only being an intern for five months. His fondness for strange women and alcohol is certainly not left out. The film also discusses his heated relationship with Gene Siskel and their rise to television fame complete with hysterical blooper reels with the two going at each other in verbal confrontations. The loudest heartbeat of the story comes from Ebert’s charming and radiant wife, Chaz. As she stands by his side with a smile on her face, the essence of true love beams across the screen. Roger Ebert was the Michael Jordan of film critics. Will there ever be another one like him? Who’s to say? Either way, Steve James has pieced together a touching documentary that I think one of the greatest film critics of all-time would have enjoyed. R.I.P. Roger Ebert.

– Jimmy Martin

Screening Times: 
Thursday, Jan. 23 — 9:00 a.m. • Sundance Resort Screening Room, Sundance Resort
Friday, Jan. 24 — 9:00 a.m. • Temple Theatre, Park City
Saturday, Jan. 25 — 9:15 p.m. • Tower Theatre, Salt Lake City

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