Life Itself, documentary, rated R, Center for Contemporary Arts, 4 chiles
It seems touching that veteran documentary filmmaker Steve James should direct a movie based on Roger Ebert’s life. Ebert, after all, championed James’ first feature film,1994’s Hoop Dreams, writing a rave review and, later, adding it to his Great Movies list. In Life Itself James takes us on an intimate and revealing journey into Ebert’s past, his rise to become the most recognized film critic working in America, and the long battle with cancer that eventually ended his life. Ebert was a participant in the making of the film (he died while it was still in production), which makes Life Itself more interesting. James makes no attempt to paint Ebert as a saint — this is no vanity project. It is a well-rounded portrait of an intelligent, thoughtful critic who could be stubborn and irascible at times, had a penchant for large-breasted women, and liked to drink. Ebert, sober since 1979, was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and broke his anonymity in a blog post in 2009.