"Call Me Lucky" Review

“Call Me Lucky” is one of the most powerful documentaries to come out this year! Director Bobcat Goldthwait’s gripping portrait of comedy legend Barry Crimmins is a must see! It’s impossible to sit through the film without laughing, crying and being disturbed in your soul on a subject, child abuse/pornography, that is talked around but not talked about in our culture.

Barry Crimmins was a beer-drinking, cigarette smoking, stand up comedian who gained notoriety in the 1980s. He founded two comedy clubs, The Ding Ho and Stitches, during that time. He is also credited with helping comedians like Steven Wright, Paula Poundstone, Dennis Leary, Bobcat Goldthwait and more get their careers going.

The film begins with friends and family re-capping Barry’s early life and start as a comedian. His satirical comedy routines focused on political and social change and were unique for its time. The interviewees highlight his impact on the industry with a slow build up to the viewer actually seeing the now secluded, simple living, 60 year old Crimmins. 

The emotional pendulum swing comes right in the middle of the film as Crimmins describes what happened to him as a child. From there, the tone of the film becomes serious as a historical drama unfolds. It turns into a David vs. Goliath battle for Crimmins as he eventually brings AOL to the senate an attempt to wipe child pornography off of the then burgeoning online chat room giant in the 90's. From there, we see the evidence of transformation and healing in Crimmins life. Crimmins interviews, like his comedy, are honest, genuine and fiery at times. 

Cinematographer Bradley Stonesifer masterfully paints with light throughout the film. The beauty of the image gives contrast to the ugliness of the subject of child abuse. The juxtaposition helps to digest the film more than if it were shot with moody lighting.

Goldthwait’s love for Crimmins is evident in every frame that comes together to weave this documentary into a portrait of a man who used his pain and scars as fuel to help others. He keeps a perfect balance of comedy and light-heartedness when needed, and raw emotional honesty through interviews with friends, family, and Barry himself. His use of the frame speaks volumes in shots, like one of the basement where Barry was raped as a child only lit from upstairs. It is quite apparent that there was a director behind the lens on this film and the precision used to tell the story with images, historical footage, interviews and all the other elements needed to create a documentary resounds from the first frame to the last.

In truth, Goldthwait’s enormous respect and love for Crimmins may have blinded him as the film could be cut down to a 90 minute running time. Goldthwait has Crimmins revisit his childhood home and the basement where he was raped near the end of the film. This could have been done for Crimmins’ healing, preserved for him, but it was not necessary for the story arch of the film, which this critic believes would have been more powerful without the pit stop.

Regardless of the overt bow from Goldthwait to Crimmins, “Call Me Lucky” is more than a portrait of Barry Crimmins. It’s a salute to his life as a comedian and an activist. The film, like its subject, is bold enough to speak clearly to the soul of humanity and call out its vile side with ferocious conviction at the same time. Now playing in limited release!

Rating: A

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Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.