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In Barbara Kopple’s documentary Running from Crazy, Mariel Hemingway (actress, model, granddaughter of Ernest) does an admirable job of stripping away any romantic notions that Americans may harbor about her family’s tragedies.
She displays a rare level of honesty about the traumas of her childhood and how they affected her later behavior, for good and ill. Hemingway, who does work for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, may never be done “running from crazy” (her partner, Bobby Williams, reveals himself to be a controlling prick, for one thing), but she’s clearly a survivor.
Unfortunately, this movie mostly reflects the surface of her personal journey, territory better tilled elsewhere by Oprah Winfrey, one of the film’s executive producers. But Kopple doesn’t step up.
The possible hereditary nature of suicide in general and of the seven known Hemingway suicides in particular is lazily poked at; decades of research go unmentioned and unexplored.
For the film’s most saturated moments and deepest insights she depends heavily on a documentary shot in the 1980s by Mariel’s sister Margaux, who committed suicide in 1996. Mariel reportedly gave Kopple 54 hours of footage from that enthralling work, and it seems that something more could come from that than this.