Film

Bobcat Goldthwait’s ‘Call Me Lucky’ Is a Smart Portrait of a Hothead Truth-Teller

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Docu–character study Call Me Lucky expresses a thorny truth that many films about truth-telling artists fail to convey: Anger is appealing because it can sometimes feel cleansing. “Sometimes” is the key word, and filmmaker Bobcat Goldthwait (Willow Creek, World’s Greatest Dad) proves he knows it in his keen, evenhanded portrait of Barry Crimmins, a mercurial cult comedian who channeled personal indignation into incendiary political satire.

Crimmins is shown confronting his audience for the sake of ridding himself of deep-seated frustration with social institutions — particularly the Catholic Church and the U.S. government — that tacitly condone violence against the people they’re supposed to protect. Crimmins is rightfully valorized in interview segments where colleagues and family members recall his participation in a 1995 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on child pornography, and in documentary footage of recent stand-up performances, where Crimmins takes on Pope Francis and pseudo-enlightened mouth-breathers who think telling un-PC jokes is an act of rebellion.

Call Me Lucky suggests that Crimmins’s anger is rooted in childhood trauma — Crimmins talks about being repeatedly raped in his parents’ basement. And Goldthwait is sensitive enough to suggest that Crimmins’s most important successes as a political commentator — Crimmins dislikes being referred to as a comedian — have been Pyrrhic. Crimmins lights up like a pinball machine when he tells a heckler to “fuck your family” for suggesting that Crimmins’s hatred of Ronald Reagan means he must love Jimmy Carter. Call Me Lucky is a loving but fair portrait of the artist as a heroic hothead.

Call Me Lucky

Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait

MPI Media Group

Opens August 7, IFC Center

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