06 Feb Life Itself Review


“I was born inside the movie of my life…I don’t remember how I got into the movie,

but it continues to entertain me.”

Every once and a while, a documentary film comes along that offers audiences a glimpse into the life of a truly extraordinary and enduring public figure. Thus is the case with Life Itself, the story of the professional and personal life of the late film critic, Roger Ebert. Arguably the most notable movie critic of the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Ebert carved out a name for himself amongst the bevy of Hollywood hopefuls with his unique point of view and succinct, yet eloquent writing style. Based on his 2011 memoir of the same name, Life Itself explores the arc of Ebert’s great career, from his humble beginnings at the Chicago Sun-Times, to his Pulitzer Prize win, to his legendary partnership with fellow critic and one-time rival, Gene Siskel.  Life Itself also delves into the critic’s personal life, his battle with alcoholism and his relationship with wife, Chaz. Shot during the last months of Ebert’s life, the film emphasizes his much publicized battle with cancer and highlights his will to live. Unfortunately, Ebert passed away before the final product was completed, yet the film proves that his influence in the film criticism field and beyond resonates today.

As a friend of Roger Ebert, filmmaker Steve James takes a refreshingly intimate approach to the making of his biographical documentary.  The film comes from a place of love and admiration, and that is made certain by the outpouring of countless writers, filmmakers, friends, and family members that are interviewed throughout its course. Sure, Ebert’s professional accomplishments are outstanding, but perhaps even more wonderful to see is his end-of-life relationship with Chaz, or his nuanced, often times challenging partnership with Gene Siskel.  James recognizes this and does not shy away from the revealing moments that it provides. Using voiceover narration from the pages of Ebert’s memoir to pepper the story, he creates an all-encompassing portrait of the man that feels truly genuine. In Life Itself, James offers an impressive retrospective of Ebert’s life and his passion for promoting and preserving the art of cinema.

Watch Life Itself on FlixFling now.

This guest blog was written by Colleen Shields.