Love, Gilda is not only a wonderful documentary but also an experience; you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and the film will make you think. Love, Gilda is a powerful inside look into the late actress and comedian Gilda Radner. Directed by Lisa Dapolito, the film examines the comedy scene from the 1970s and 80s and how Gilda influenced it as one of the first female comedians on Saturday Night Live (SNL). She certainly didn’t peg herself as a feminist, however, by being the only woman doing what she was doing, she inherently became a feminist icon. During that time she often was put in typical roles only reserved for women, yet she didn’t complain and she conquered those roles with grace. After a while, she started creating roles for herself and other women, thus expanding opportunities for other female comics to express themselves in unique ways.
Not only did other women appreciate Gilda for her strong personality and talented acting, but male comics saw her potential as well and assisted in getting her where she was in her career. The film highlights how much influence Gilda had over these very talented comedians who are still actively working today. Many talented actors are interviewed about Gilda’s life and their relationships with Gilda such as Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and Dan Aykroyd, just to name a few. The film goes deep into Gilda’s personal relationships, her struggles with her health and weight, as well as her family life. The film does a wonderful job exposing the human side of an iconic actress that the general public has never seen before; It truly uncovers a world that most people don’t often get to be a part of.
Alongside having a strong influence on talented male actors, Gilda had influence over female comics that are currently on the scene today. The film interviews female SNL successors to Gilda, and they discuss in depth how she paved the way for their comedy careers without even knowing it. Love, Gilda is calculated and thoughtful in who they chose to interview for this documentary; Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Cecily Strong and Melissa McCarthy read emotional, old letters Gilda wrote to convey her experiences as a woman in comedy. These actresses even comment on how much of an honor it is to have be able to read Gilda’s handwritten letters within the film.
This film is a tribute to American comedy and what goes into it; it exposes a great deal of the comedy scene in both positive and negative ways and shows how hard Gilda worked to get where she was in her career. Lorne Michaels discusses Gilda with such content and talks about how she was dearly missed after she left SNL but understands why she did. One especially touching addition to the film is the archival footage that is incorporated (her brother provided a lot of the home videos). The archival footage and audio of Gilda shows her personality in a beautiful way; if you don’t know who she is before you watch the film, you’ll fall in love with her by the end of it. Her spirit is captured in such a considerate way, you can’t help but cry. This is a side of comedy that is often overlooked, comedians are not viewed as human, and their pain isn’t often exposed until it is too late (note: comedians have the highest suicide rate of any profession). Gilda was by no means suicidal, however she did struggle with depression which affected her health in many ways, and it is so important to discuss those types of struggles when talking about comedy; the film contemplates this in a meaningful way.
Love, Gilda is a piece of history that shows how far we have come in comedy and the roles of female actors. It really hasn’t been that long since women were only allowed to play roles “reserved for women”. Even though Gilda passed away from ovarian cancer at such a young age, this documentary proves that she has had an important influence for years, and she still has influence today. If you want to learn about self love, I highly recommend this film; Gilda taught people that its okay to be your genuine self, and that even when you’re incredibly famous, you’re still just like everyone else.