Normally I try to contain my thoughts about films until the end of the review, but it's really hard to do it when it comes to Call Me Lucky, so I'll get it out of the way now. Call Me Lucky may be one of the best films I've seen in 2015. It deserves to be on more Top 10 lists than it will probably appear on, and deserves more awards recognition than it will likely receive. The details that are brought up are unflinching in their gruesomeness, its subject has more anger than the average guy. Hell, its subject has more anger than the average arena full of people. But its subject is one that is memorable for his causes, which he goes over here.
This documentary is directed by Bobcat Goldthwait (Willow Creek), and focuses on the life of Barry Crimmins. Crimmins was a stand-up comedian in Boston in the 1970s and 1980s but was also outspoken in his support of left-leaning political causes. In an era when Ronald Reagan dominated headlines, he was a squeaky wheel whenever he could. He also served as a mentor of sorts to a variety of younger comics in Boston, comics who have grown to be familiar names now. Comics like David Cross, Denis Leary and Marc Maron (to name several) appear to share their thoughts of and fondness for Crimmins. Goldthwait, now in his 50s, himself met Crimmins when he was a teenager, and remains friends with him to date. The love and care for his friend in Call Me Lucky is evident.
In the early 1990s, Crimmins revealed to a crowd onstage about being sexually abused. Later, it is learned that the family babysitter and a community priest attacked him. He eventually relocated to Ohio, and at the beginning of the internet boom, posed as two children in various chat rooms on AOL after learning that child pornography was being traded freely on the internet. His crusade, both in the collection of this evidence and the quest for some sort of intervention led to criminal investigations and arrests of dozens of people.
Goldthwait structures Call Me Lucky in such a way that we see how Crimmins' personality is on and off stage, but then it goes into the reasons why, and you can see Crimmins' deep seated feelings for the underdog. In government, and religion, Crimmins' sees the manipulations of faith and loyalty and knows what can be done with them, so he believes he has every right to speak out against those manipulations, and he does often. He identifies with the shunned, and we see interviews with many of them in the film, and I would think that there are others that are not included here. He also interviews Crimmins' surviving family, his mother and two sisters specifically. His mother does not address the abuse revelations (that I recall), but his sisters do, and he does mention one of his sisters and being ‘my hero' for seeing what happened and reporting it. She discusses this in heartbreaking detail, and always remembering her younger brother's face when she saw him. It is something that is easily visible and almost as haunting, even if we were never in the basement where it happened.
This is one of several revelations in the film, and while Crimmins coming into the film may have been judged on his politics, it is what he's done as a person since those revelations that is emotional and marvelous. He does not judge, he puts his arm around you and asks two questions that everyone should ask in response to something like that; he asks how you are, and asks what he can do to help. This is shown when fellow Boston standup Kevin Meaney came out, and the impact of Crimmins on Meaney's life is felt in the scant scenes of the latter on screen.
I may be tapdancing around the details within these revelations or the stories that Crimmins and other recount, but they do require some experience for one's self. Additionally, while the level of detail is explicit (Crimmins' was part of an essay that recounted his past in a piece titled "Baby Rape," after all), the underlying part of it is that Crimmins is comfortable discussing it now, be it with Goldthwait or in front of a camera for millions, so there is little reason why you should be uncomfortable. It was Crimmins who was raped and he has made peace with it in a way.
I really hope I haven't given the store away when it comes to Call Me Lucky because the story is told well, and Goldthwait frames it so beautifully, it really is something that everyone should experience on their own, be it those who have been victims of abuse like Crimmins (or not), or those who agree with Crimmins' politics (or not). Crimmins' survival of and self-exposure to the evil minds behind some of this stuff is fascinating, and while the exclamation of Call Me Lucky may serve as comic diffusion in the film, the story the film tells is remarkable and one that is downright mandatory.The Blu-ray:
In a mild surprise, Call Me Lucky is given an AVC-encoded 2.35:1 widescreen presentation that looks great. The recent interviews possess a bunch of detail, be it foreground or background in facial poring and clothing textures. It also juggles a variety of old video from the 1970s-1990s of various condition, all of it looks great. Colors are reproduced nicely and haloing is kept to a minimum on the film, which handles the material thrown at it very well.The Sound:
DTS-HD MA lossless to go with a PCM stereo track, both of which sound almost as good. The soundtrack has no directional effects or channel panning to speak of, but dialogue is consistent in the front of the soundstage and sounds well-balanced with nary a hint of dropouts. Looks good, sounds just as much.Extras:
Goldthwait and Crimmins discuss the film on a commentary where the latter brought in a clown horn and cowbell for the overly comic diffusion moments on the track. But it's a fine track, where they discuss some of the detail in the older footage, or comic influences, or consumption of alcohol and drugs. It is less a track on the production of the film and a moderate complement on the Boston comedy scene, and handles itself well at that. The trailer (2:17) rounds things out.Final Thoughts:
While it's my hope that Call Me Lucky get some love to its director and star, even if it doesn't, it serves as a fascinating documentary on a fan few know of but whose work has been impactful in two different areas beyond the immediate reach. Technically it's a fine disc, even if the commentary is a bit bland. But it should, it must, be seen by every pair of eyes it can, for an experience that will be rewarded.