Call Me Lucky full movie review - "He's like a guy in a John Ford movie."
A profile of what could be called the Most Scathing-Best Comic You've Never Heard Of (or maybe heard the name but never really saw), this is actually a powerful story of transformation and the triumph of the human spirit.
That sounds like a bunch of s***, as Barry Crimmins might even put it, but it's true, and what's powerful also is how Goldthwait frames the story: the first half is showing us about this guy with shaggy hair and a crazy mustache that hangs down to his chin who would get up on stage with cigarettes and a beer (seemingly the forerunner, if this could be possible, of Bill Hicks, to me anyway) and rail against politicians - Reagan especially - and the government and institutions in general. He wasn't a "relationship" type of comic or a guy who talked about life's "little" moments like a Seinfeld. He went on stage to exorcise his thoughts and feelings, which were usually filled with bile.
The moments that are shown of him on stage are quite funny, if you can key yourself into his humor (I could, very quickly), and these clips are surrounded by interviews with people who knew him and worked with him at a club he started in Boston out of a Chinese food restaurant. But it's one thing if the movie was just that - Goldthwait, who knew Crimmins well in years past (he helped Goldthwait, with one seemingly small gesture after a night of hard partying, get him to sober up which is a touching detail that makes this an extremely personal movie) - but it's more, a lot more. It's about how a body can be violated and broken, and how it's next to impossible to get that back, and yet there's always other people who can be helped and saved.
Without spoiling too much about the details the second half gets into Crimmins' revelation, which he first did on stage in 1990 during an intense set, and then to the camera in this doc, about his sexual abuse as a kid. "I'm not a f***ing victim, but I am a witness," he says much later when the director takes him back to the house and basement where it took place. This moment by the way could be in other hands rather forced, like this is something that feels like it should be in here so we as the audience with the subject can get to some kind of catharsis by revealing and confronting further the horror and nightmare of the past... but how Crimmins sees it and puts it, it strips away that and he just knows what happened happened, and "it's just a basement," as he puts it. Perfectly put.
The documentary is as much about Crimmins' efforts in the 90's to show how AOL in its early days basically allowed child sex rings to go unabated online. One of the highlights of the film, and of any film in 2015, is seeing him at the hearing he attended in front of some politicians with an AOL stooge next to him. How this unfolds you have to see for yourself, but suffice it to say you can see how all of the anger and vitriol and pain that Crimmins dealt with over time kind of culminates in this moment. This isn't to say he stopped being an activist or fought for human rights elsewhere (naturally anti-war he's on camera fighting the good fight in 2004/2005 against Bush), and all of this is shown to come from an honest place, and the film reflects that.
Does it go on a little too long? Maybe, like near just the last five-ten minutes it starts to feel like it's run its course and told its story (not that the end credits don't bring some pep back in). What I got to see in Call Me Lucky is a life in full in both the world of comedy (which he had a love-hate relationship with, sometimes hate more than love depending on the night or who was performing, a true outsider) and in taking pain to try and do some sort of good. It's difficult to present someone's life when they're a victim of abuse, but the only thing to do is to not step around the subjects while also not making it *only* about that.
If Crimmins was only about illegal sex in chatrooms or only about p***ing off the government or something that'd be one thing, but it's more about seeing what goes on inside the mind of a crusader against all injustices, but especially those that hurt the innocents - the Catholic Church being the biggest target of all. You want to follow up on Spotlight as far as that goes this is a good movie to go to. But as far as taking a subject, showing him warts and all (not always a likable guy, some of the interviewees admit), this is about as strong as it gets in 2015 docs in seeing a man of principles and (dark) humor in full.
Or as Marc Maron puts it, "when I first saw him I thought, 'who does he think he us, he should be taken down a notch', and now I think 'he should be taken up a notch.'"