Film Reviews

Review: ‘Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You’

Hot Docs 2016

Courtesy of Hot Docs


Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You
(USA, 91 min.)
Dir. Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
Programme: Special Presentations (International Premiere)

It’s in the very nature of television for the creators of popular shows to often take a backseat to the series we consume. A few, however, have seen their names become synonymous not only with a selection of shows but with an entire era of entertainment. For a decade, Norman Lear was the king of comedy, his shows ushering in an era of sophistication and liberal sentiment.

From All In The Family to Sanford and Son, Maude and The Jeffersons, Lear’s shows combined broad comedy with biting social commentary, leaving behind the safer, more straightforward sit-coms of the Fifties and Sixties to tackle issues that related to the growing political consciousness of the 1970s.

The new documentary Just Another Version Of You is a touching, effective showcase of Lear’s talent, providing both a poignant look back at his work and an examination of the changes he provoked within the industry through the shows he created. While the structure of the film might appear a bit too cutesy for some, it does effectively draw the audience into Lear’s highly personal stories. The film benefits greatly from his first-person recollections told in a stylised, cinematic way, elevating the regular talking head form into something far more engaging.

Lear is a consummate story teller, so his stories are naturally quite engaging. Yet it’s his forthrightness that’s most endearing, assisted in part by filmmakers Ewing and Grady, who caught him after he’d just tackled some of his deepest demons when working on a recent memoir. At 93 Lear is going strong, with more shows under production. The film showcases Lear’s talent without eulogizing him, presenting a warts-and-all take that still manages to highlight the remarkable vitality that this iconic TV man still exudes.

Nornan Lear: Just Another Version of You screens:
-Friday, May 6 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 6:45 PM
-Saturday, May 7 at the Revue at 3:15 PM at the Revue

Please visit the POV Hot Docs hub for more coverage on this year’s festival.

Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit www.hotdocs.ca for more information.