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Call Me Lucky
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by Jay Seaver

"Lucky us."
5 stars

SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2015: It's common to ask whether someone other than the person that wound up making a movie could have done so, but I think it's a fair question with "Call Me Lucky". Subject Barry Crimmins and director Bobcat Goldthwait go way back, so there is trust there, which is important. Perhaps just as important, though, is that Goldthwait is a guy willing and able to make the movie that the material demands, whether that means going from funny to uncomfortable or making a documentary rather than the narrative he'd originally envisioned.

Crimmins, who has returned to upstate New York after spending much of his adult life elsewhere, was a stand-up comic of unusual sharpness and political outrage during the Reagan years when that was not necessarily in fashion; he would also become a driving force in the Boston comedy scene, discovering and encouraging people from Goldthwait to Kevin Meaney to Lenny Clarke. And then, during a set at Stitches in 1992, he dropped a bombshell during his monologue that stunned everybody.

Goldthwait has often been one to build his movies by stretching comedy over some pretty dark material, though it's easy to miss at least the extreme of it here. Crimmins is a curmudgeon both now and then, but Goldthwait tends to paint the biting comedy of the younger Crimmins as focused and perceptive rather than that of a man lashing out because of the injustice done to him. Goldthwait approaches the first half of the film in much the way he might handle a more conventional look at a comedian's life and career, talking with his peers, showing some footage, and spotlighting the times Crimmins staged something larger-scale than standing on a stage and telling jokes with a beer in his hand. Any hints at what's to come are planted quietly.

That makes what comes out around the midpoint a heck of a gut-punch, but a very precise one. A viewer might hear it and say "well, that's why he's so angry", and Goldthwait certainly allows that this will intensify any disgust one has at the powerful exploiting the weak, he makes very sure that he doesn't paint it as a silver-lining situation, which could be considered kind of disgusting. Instead, the audience sees an almost ideally-focused rage, unerringly targeted where it will do the most good and, fascinatingly, not bitter in a scattershot manner much less forgiving, but wise in an impressive way.

Like Crimmins himself, the film moves back and forth between sarcasm and emotion so earnest as to be shocking, but the potential tonal whiplash never arises. For as much as Goldthwait likes to live at the edge of the envelope, he's actually a very precise filmmaker; it's an impressively balanced movie. You can see this reflected quietly all over the film, right down to word choices - for instance, when Crimmins discovers pedophiles meeting in AOL chat rooms in the early days of the internet, he and Goldthwait will very pointedly say "rape" rather than "molest", because even though the latter isn't a mild word, it doesn't get across the full force of what they want to communicate.

Goldthwait also assembles a great line-up of comedians to join Crimmins's family and friends, giving them equal weight. One doesn't make it on-screen, unfortunately, and when the "For Robin" dedication appears at the end, it's another mixed volley of emotion - a reminder of recent tragedy, but also evidence that a man can endure, and that endurance is something that should be celebrated.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=28228&reviewer=371
originally posted: 05/08/15 13:27:45
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2015 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Chicago Critics Film Festival For more in the 2015 Chicago Critics Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 San Francisco Film Festival For more in the 2015 San Francisco International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Independent Film Festival Boston For more in the 2015 Independent Film Festival Boston series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Savannah Film Festival For more in the 2015 Savannah Film Festival series, click here.

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USA
  07-Aug-2015 (NR)
  DVD: 13-Oct-2015

UK
  N/A

Australia
  07-Aug-2015
  DVD: 13-Oct-2015




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