Movie Review: ‘LOVE, GILDA’ isn’t as special as its subject

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Kip Mooney // Film Critic

LOVE, GILDA

Not Rated, 88 Minutes
Director: Lisa Dapolito
Cast: Gilda RadnerChevy ChaseLorne MichaelsLaraine NewmanPaul ShafferMartin ShortAmy Poehler and Bill Hader

Gilda Radner was the first person hired for the original cast of what was then just called NBC’s Saturday Night. She was one of the funniest people to ever live, on-screen and off. And her life was tragically cut short by ovarian cancer at age 42.

The new documentary LOVE, GILDA has deep affection for its subject, but it tells us nothing new that fans don’t already know, and there’s nothing surprising about its format either. This is an extremely basic doc for a person who was larger than life.

Born in 1946 in Detroit, Gilda enjoyed an upper-middle class lifestyle. She struggled with eating disorders almost her entire life, but found release through performing, especially after the death of her father at age 12. Her star was on the rise thanks to the Toronto production of Godspell (which included almost every funny person in Canada) and the National Lampoon Radio Hour, which helped get her into the original cast of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE at age 29.

By this point, SNL, especially its first five seasons, has been so mythologized that any further discussion of how revolutionary it was feels a little tiring at this point. Thankfully the film focuses more on the camaraderie of that core cast, and on the creation of Radner’s iconic characters Emily Litella and Roseanne Rosannadanna.

Despite rapturous acclaim for her one-woman Broadway show, Radner’s post-SNL career never flourished. Almost every movie project she took (many co-starring her husband Gene Wilder) flopped. But she found happiness with her true love, even as some of her personal demons were never fully beaten.

Gilda Radner was a gifted performer, a once-in-a-generation talent who could do it all. While LOVE, GILDA believes this to its core, it’s never more than a standard-issue biographical documentary. While it’s no insult to her memory, a talent such as Gilda’s deserves a little bit more.

[Grade: B-]

LOVE, GILDA opens Friday in limited release.
Dallas: Magnolia Theatre

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.