There have been few second acts in American cinema as unexpected and rewarding as that of Bobcat Goldthwait. After establishing himself on the standup circuit and then playing wacky, unstable characters in entertainments of varying quality, Goldthwait went behind the camera. His first effort, Shakes the Clown, with its misanthropic clown subject and Florence Henderson playing against type, seemed like a natural extension of his career up to that point. He then directed television, and it was fifteen years before he directed his second feature, Sleeping Dogs Lie. Though still transgressive in subject matter, the film showcases his more confident direction and a defter, darker approach to comedy. This trend continued as Goldthwait balanced television directing with features World’s Greatest Dad and God Bless America, both of which showcase his distinctive voice and his willingness to make the movie he wants to make, economics be damned. This is particularly true with Willow Creek, a genre experiment that is simultaneously a commentary on found footage horror films and a surprisingly good monster movie. Goldthwait continues his exploration with Call Me Lucky, a documentary about comedian and activist Barry Crimmins. Call Me Lucky begins in the vein of many “great unknown” documentaries, with more recognizable contemporaries and supposed acolytes giving testimony about the importance of the film’s subject despite his or her relative anonymity. The roster here includes Steven Cross, Tom Kenny, Marc Maron, Margaret Cho, David Cross, Patton Oswald, and Lenny Clarke, still instantly recognizable from his role as Uncle Teddy on Rescue Me. His presence underscores the absence of another Boston comedian, Denis Leary, from the film. Crimmins booked Leary early in his career, and he would seem to have unique insight into Crimmins’ subject matter, particularly Catholicism, and his confrontational delivery. The assembled talking heads do their best to establish Crimmins’ importance, particularly in founding the vibrant Boston comedy scene, but nothing emerges that clearly defines him as either innovative or under-appreciated. Connections are tenuously made that place Crimmins in the pantheon, but Call Me Lucky never fully establishes him as a forgotten genius. The film takes a hard left turn about forty-five minutes in, as the focus shifts from Crimmins’ comedy career to the abuse he suffered as a child. This is not a Dear Zachary type twist meant to take the audience’s breath away; this aspect of the film is mentioned in all of the press materials. The events here are upsetting, as is their recounting, but all parties involved handle the subject with particular care. Goldthwait simply chooses to focus on the moments that have defined Crimmins’ life and to spare none of the details. As a portrait of survival, the film is blisteringly frank; Crimmins bares himself for the audience in hopes that sharing his story will accomplish some good for another affected person. It is here that Call Me Lucky hits another level; Goldthwait has proven that he does not shy from discomfort in fiction, and he applies the same code to his documentary. In this way, Goldthwait is the perfect director to tell this part of Crimmins’ story; the terribleness, once examined, is something that can be endured and conquered. As Call Me Lucky moves into a third act that is meant to be triumphant, the degree to which Crimmins has truly moved past his abuse becomes more apparent, and Goldthwait’s closeness to his subject raises some issues. Crimmins transitions into a role as a child advocate, and there is an unmistakable aspect of darkness to his methods. The continued effects of his abuse that perhaps drive this activity are glossed over in the film, which focuses instead on Crimmins’ victorious moments in congressional testimony versus America Online. Crimmins’ use of alcohol is also mentioned in a few of the talking head segments, but there is no in-depth discussion of the topic. Perhaps it is not an issue, but a couple of the stories, particularly about Crimmins waking up a friend to take him to a liquor store on a Sunday and being able to consume an enormous amount of alcohol “without being an alcoholic,” indicate that there might be a connection that Goldthwait did not want to examine. Given that Crimmins was a mentor for the director, it’s easy to see why he would overlook these aspects of the story, or maybe they just weren’t present. Call Me Lucky leaves this up in the air, and in doing so gives the slightest coat of whitewash to Crimmins’ story. Bobcat Goldthwait is one of the more adventurous directors working in the American cinema, and his films are always worth watching. They are also, to varying degrees, passion projects that reflect the limitations and idiosyncrasies of their creator. Call Me Lucky is no different. A more objective director might have made a more complete film on Barry Crimmins, but it was Goldthwait who knew him and held him in enough esteem to complete this project. The resulting film leaves some questions unanswered, but is nonetheless a powerful document of the devastating effects of abuse and the resilience of the human spirit. Call Me Lucky is in select theaters August 7th. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.