Review by Mark Schwab
A powerful, heartbreaking but ultimately uplifting documentary of Roger Ebert's life based on his book of the same name. Director Steve James (the brilliant "Hoop Dreams") was given total access by Ebert and his wife Chaz to his life while he struggled with massive health issues.
Ebert and James had been close friends for years, ever since he (and his fellow film critic Gene Siskel) championed his modest-budgeted doc "Hoop Dreams". Their endorsement brought James (deserved) fame, jumpstarted his career and built a fine and enduring friendship. That friendship benefits all of us since Ebert obviously deeply trusts James to visualize his life in the proper context. You can rest easy Roger - James does a superb job.
We begin at almost the end of Ebert's life in 2012 while he's hospitalized. Watching Roger endure the daily agony of getting his lungs suctioned is very difficult to watch at first. But with his ever-present and loving wife Chaz, you can understand why Ebert refuses to give up hope and carries onward. There are some surpises in the doc - like how his drinking problem was actually quite serious in the late 70's and that he met his wife in an A.A. meeting. This covered some familiar ground for me regarding his professional background as a newspaper journalist and television celebrity, but when it came to Roger the person, I felt like I knew him much better afterwards. Ebert passed away during the production of this doc and James handles this in a very moving way without being exploitive or macabre. His wife Chaz's description of Roger's final moments are deeply moving and should draw an appreciative tear from your eyes. If you were a fan of Roger Ebert (and I was), this is a must-see.