Life Itself Review
Rating: 3.5 out of 4
Directed by: Steve James
Availability: iTunes Rental and On Demand
I never had the chance to personally meet Roger Ebert but I’ve adored him for years as any good film lover should. Few celebrity deaths have had such an impact on me as Roger Ebert’s death and there’s frankly nobody who will ever be able to match his magnitude when it comes to the world of criticism.
Modeled after Ebert’s memoir Life Itself, the documentary by Steve James jumps from chapter to chapter of the book to paint a picture of the man that is Roger Ebert. There are some major bombshells in this film about Ebert’s life that actually contradict his own writings. James wisely weaves back and forth between the story of Roger’s life with a focus on his friendship with Gene Siskel and that of his last remaining months as he’s trapped in his body. While the Esquire profile was startling in how much it debilitated Roger, James’ Life Itself portrays how bad the day to day life of Roger had gotten. It’s incredibly startling to see his lower cheek flab up and down without his jaw. Nevertheless, Roger still had a voice and did so through his writings in his last remaining years.
For anybody that’s so familiar with Ebert’s voice, it’s difficult to have Stephen Stanton to stand in for his narration. For obvious reasons, Ebert was unable to provide narration but nevertheless it’s still somewhat distracting. In his last years with the revitalized PBS At The Movies program, Werner Herzog filled in for him and that may have been preferable to a Roger Ebert impersonation.
Life Itself is a beautiful film about a man who is a titan of cinema. For anyone who is a lover of cinema, Life Itself is a beautiful documentary about a grand man from Chicago who shared his love of movies with millions and has forever changed the way people view film. My life wouldn’t be the same without Roger Ebert and it’s sad to live in a world without him.