‘Norman Lear’ screens Sunday at Nevada Theatre
In the documentary “Norman Lear: Just another Version of You,” the 93-year-old says “You have to find the satisfaction yourself.” He’s found lots and he’s still looking. Quoting the fuller pith of that wisdom, it seems more about “learning that you have to find the satisfaction yourself.”
The film repeatedly inserts a cinematic gimmick. It’s the embodiment of the 9-year-old that first started taking it all in. It’s the 9-year-old in Lear that has been learning with him all along the way. At one point in the 1970s, he was responsible for six of the top ten televisions shows. (This was essentially before cable TV and way before internet.) Besides shows like “Maude” and “The Jeffersons” and “Good Times,” all of which were bold situation comedies in the 1970s, “All in the Family” led the pack.
“All in the Family” did way more than subject its audience to a lovable bigot who routinely spewed politically incorrect language. (Hey, Archie Bunker was just a middle class working stiff; it isn’t like he was some attention-sucking, golden-spooned aspirant.) In concocted sitcoms that felt like real people family dynamics, Lear confronted the toughest issues.The way Lear challenged the censors and challenged the viewers caused Philip Rosenthal – producer of “Everybody Loves Raymond” — to say television history divides into “Before Norman Lear and after Norman Lear.”
This documentary about Lear comes off a bit bland, which seems surprising given what the man represented and accomplished. What the film lacks in examined tensions, it fills respectfully with the flavor of the man’s soul and his presence. Norman Lear stood for himself, but in the ways he did so, inside and outside the realm of television, he stood for much more.
“It’s hard to be a human being,” Lear said. So much so, it makes you laugh. Norman Lear specialized in vehicles of laughter. This film about him drives an easy going homage to a man who, directly or indirectly, is familiar to tens of millions of people and should be.
This film shows at the Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad St., Nevada City, at 7 pm, Sunday.
Chuck Jaffee of Grass Valley likes to plug people into the spirit of independent filmmakers. Find his other articles for The Union at http://www.startlets.com.
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