Love, Gilda

Directed by Lisa Dapolito

Starring – Gilda Radner, Lorne Michaels, Melissa McCarthy

The Plot – In her own words, comedienne Gilda Radner looks back and reflects on her life and career. Weaving together recently discovered audiotapes, interviews with her friends, rare home movies and diaries read by modern day comediennes. The film offers a unique window into the honest and whimsical world of a beloved performer whose greatest role was sharing her story

The film is currently not rated


– Vividly defines Gilda’s dive into comedy, that eventually made her a phenomenon. Comedy was much more than a job to Gilda; it very much serves as the bridging between her often-distant family, serving as a coping mechanism for the cruelties of life. In this regard, she used it to battle depression she suffered from weight gains, lack of friends her own age, and the decaying state of her father when she was only 14.

– Gilda’s influence. In the many varieties of interviewed guests, both in and out of the Saturday Night Live bubble, Dapolito constructs what may be Gilda’s most shining gift to the world, in how she paved the road for a generation of women starved for equality on television. Through Lisa’s absorbing timeline of Gilda’s rise, the film preserves her as an ahead-of-her-time feminist icon who rose much more than she failed, and held her own against a male dominated cast that included some of the biggest names in comedy history.

– Special gift. As to where other documentaries about deceased protagonists base their psychology on assumptions from the people closest to them, ‘Love, Gilda’ has the blessing of collecting a plentiful helping of tape recordings and diary entries from the title character herself, preserving the spirit of Radner for one more day of life. Aside from its use of style in displaying on-screen visuals of her writing, there are plenty of candid reveals from the celebrities who turn the pages on Gilda’s rocky road, allowing us a candid perspective that other documentaries just can’t pertain.

– Visual mastery. Dapolito treats us to many of Gilda’s most legendary moments, with a combination of stock footage and behind-the-scenes photography that perfectly immerse us in the particular time and place that Gilda’s journey passed through, giving it an enriching scrapbook style visual compass to compliment the material. In doing so, we’re reminded of the drug-and-disco 70’s that may or may not have been Gilda’s ultimate undoing, during a time when living free came with a valuable price tag.

– What I commend this film most of all for, is its dedication to its leading lady, that doesn’t wither or squander away, the deeper we get. One such example was my review for ‘Andre The Giant’ earlier this year, that focused for a solid 45 minutes on Hulk Hogan instead of its purpose character, but ‘Love, Gilda’ knows that its story and audience remain with her, so from birth to death we stand beside Gilda through it all, feeling like a cherished best friend who she always confides in.

– Relationship with Gene Wilder. This was the angle in the film that I was looking the most forward to, as most of their marriage together remained hidden from the public eye, and it didn’t disappoint. In understanding the importance of Gene to her at-the-time scattered life, we realize that marriage came across like a fresh take at a second start for Gilda, allowing her to immerse herself in the pleasures of life that up until that time she felt she didn’t deserve. It ultimately provided maturity to a woman who was afraid to grow-up, and proved that at the age of 38 she met the person she was destined to be with.

– Part of what made Gilda so infectious as a performer was her ability to reach inside and pull a smile or fit of laughter out of you regardless of the situation, and this homage to her more than accommodates this notion to the audience watching at home. Even for skits and material that are currently over forty years old, the essence of Radner’s personality remains persistently satisfying, giving us plenty of hearty laughter for a performer that always put her body and soul into everything she did. You might laugh or cry during this film, but one thing is clear: it is an effective watch.


– A bit disjointed in its pacing. In covering the entire spectrum of Gilda’s highs and lows, the film feels extremely limited at 81 brief minutes, refusing to allow us much lasting time of the events that move in and out of frame like the wind. Some chapters are given too much time, while others barely scratch the surface of learning exposition, and because of such ‘Love, Gilda’, like its leading lady, could afford to slow down and enjoy the roller-coaster of life.

– Dapolito certainly etches out a love letter, but it’s in her admiration for Gilda that takes away from some of the more compelling character flaws of Radner that the informative audiences will require. Particularly in Gilda’s experimentation with drugs, and her challenging interaction with her public, these angles definitely required more fleshing out and definition that Gilda wasn’t quite the saint that Lisa would like to illuminate her as.

– No epilogue? As you can imagine, this film ends in predictable territory. But it isn’t the formulaic direction that fills me with regret, but rather the lack of fitting conclusions from A-list guests that could’ve provided the underlining on Radner’s decades old lasting memory. It feels like the film just kind of unceremoniously ends because of it, capping off an otherwise interesting watch with the seeds of mediocrity.


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