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Review: Love, Gilda. A tragic but inspiring tale

  • Release year: 2018
  • Director: Lisa D’Apolito.
  • Producers: Bronwyn Berry, Lisa D’Apolito, Meryl Goldsmith and James Tumminia.
  • Cinematography by: Robert Featherstone and Nick Higgins.
  • Music by: Miriam Cutler.

Synopsis: documentary about the life of Gilda Radner.

Shotgun Commentary: inspiring and tragic reminder of a great entertainer.

Still from Love, Gilda (Lisa D’Apolito, 2018).

Review

Much like her latest work Shari & Lamb Chop (2023), Lisa D’Apolito’s Love, Gilda is the account of Gilda Radner’s life story put together with images and videos of her. Only, unlike with Shari Lewis, this work is also narrated with the help of Radner’s own diaries and letters. The documentary has two purposes. Firstly, it serves as a reminder of a great celebrity’s relevance. And secondly, it is an inspiring narrative for women who want to excel in their own fields of interest. If this review awakens your curiosity, Love, Gilda is available in Amazon Prime Video.

60% wealth, 100% hard work

Radner came from a wealthy family. This is of great help if one wishes to accomplish great things, especially as a woman in the 50s and 60s. However, it is not the only requisite for success. As it is seen in this documentary, Gilda worked very hard her whole life to get to where she was. She became one of the few original female cast members for one of the most relevant comedy shows in the US: Saturday Night Live (1975-present). Proof of her talent and resolve. In addition to beating cancer repeatedly, sign of her strength and determination.

Sadly, she is also a great example of how the entertainment industry beats down and overworks women a lot more than men. There is a small comment made almost as a joke that is incredibly telling. A woman from the original cast of SNL mentions that the three women were “the good girls”, versus the “bad boys” of the cast, because they were always on time and ready for anything, unlike them.

Forward?

This is incredibly revealing in terms of sexism in the work space. Yes, women can work now, but we also experience that constant pressure to do better and more. To be better all the time and never fail in order to be worthy of that privilege of working. A lot of times it is a completely unconscious behaviour. Regardless, it is incredibly common, and a sad consequence of the patriarchal society we live in. One in which women feel the need to justify having the opportunity to have a job.

Still from Love, Gilda (Lisa D’Apolito, 2018).

This comment is very much connected to how it is shown in the documentary that Gilda was severely overworked. She went to work whenever she was needed, day or night, and she delivered any amount of work she was asked, even if that was too much for one person. Essentially modern slavery. Only it is worse because, on top of that, you have to feel grateful for getting a chance.

The obsession for deciding on women’s bodies

It would be great to be able to say that this is where the exploitation ends but, as Gilda reminds us with her story, there is also the matter of the looks. Regrettably, Radner’s issues with health started a long time before cancer struck. Her story of eating disorders is one that will sound familiar to a tragically huge amount of women nowadays because, unfortunately, absolutely nothing has changed.

Women still grow up being judged by their own family on what they eat and how much and when. Since a young age, they drill into them the idea that they must be careful with this if they want to be pretty, desirable, or even loved. If one has the misfortune of being in the entertainment industry, the public eye only makes these issues worse.

Still from Love, Gilda (Lisa D’Apolito, 2018).

From the very beginning of the documentary, any woman can sense that something is wrong. Radner’s love for food when she was little and her mother’s obsession for standardised beauty already tip off the most observant. Particularly after taking into consideration Gilda’s physique during her SNL days. Fortunately, the documentary delves into this subject head on to make sure that no one is left wondering or, even worse, completely obvious to this very serious problem.

Wonderful production

The whole piece is constructed thoughtfully and that comes through. The editing takes every piece of information, every nugget of Gilda’s life, and sets it so that it will help create the perfect reconstruction of the events that built Radner’s legend. It is an emotional piece that shows, not only her life, but also her legacy and all the good she did with her work and her brief existence in this world.

All in all, Love, Gilda will inspire you, depress you, make you laugh, possibly cry, but overall respect and admire a great woman. Her talent, energy and resilience despite the worst setbacks will encourage you to face your own troubles with a smile.

Advice to take from this movie:

  • Avoid people who feel the need to comment on your weight and/or physical appearance.
  • As a woman, try to remind yourself that working is not a privilege men give you, it’s YOUR RIGHT.
  • If you want your death wishes to be granted, write them on a legal document, not on a diary.
Still from Love, Gilda (Lisa D’Apolito, 2018).

What’s your take? Have you watched Love, Gilda? Who is your favourite unsung hero? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema-related articles, check out the rest of my blog! 😀

4 replies on “Review: Love, Gilda. A tragic but inspiring tale”

I have been a huge Gilda fan forever. She was the first SNL person hired to play so many wonderful characters. I admired her so much. Like Gilda, I too am battling the horrible Ovarian Cancer. The silent killer. Like Gilda demonstrated, humor carried her through the long journey. I too am trying to let humor carry me on my journey. Tho I cry like a baby every time I see this beautiful documentary.

Thank you for your comment! I’m so sorry to hear you are going through this. It is a terrible experience, but you are right in facing the situation with a constructive spirit and the will to go on and win. Humour does indeed make everything better in that regard. Films are a very efficient means to touch upon hard topics like this with respect and humour, and to help you find some extra support and feel seen. I hope you win your battle. You have all my support, for whatever that might be worth. Thank you for sharing your experience.

SNL was my all time favourite when Gilda was there. She always raised my spirits and made me laugh. It was that childlike quality she had and her big heart that caught me! I still miss her so much🙏❤️🇨🇦

Thank you for sharing your experience with Gilda! She was a very special woman, and indeed a big part of why SNL appealed to a wider audience from the beginning.

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