“Being Mary Tyler Moore”
Rotten Tomatoes (4/5), Metacritic (8/10), Letterboxd (4/5), Imdb.com (8/10), TMDB.com (8/10)
To say that iconic actress/dancer/comedienne Mary Tyler Moore was a gifted, complicated, reserved, often-misunderstood individual is indeed an understatement. However, director James Adolphus’s new HBO documentary presents a reverent, insightful and respectfully candid biography of the famed star of TV, stage and screen, showing Moore in all of her magnificent multidimensionality. As the winner of seven Emmys, three Golden Globes, a special Tony Award and the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as an Oscar nomination for her tremendous lead performance in “Ordinary People” (1980), she significantly changed the face of television comedy and demonstrated a degree of acting versatility rarely seen. In her TV roles as Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show and Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, she opened doors for actresses by portraying characters who hadn’t been seen on the little screen before. And, in a wider sense, in her role as Mary Richards, she significantly bolstered the growth of the women’s movement in the world at large, a role she championed despite her own somewhat conventional off-screen lifestyle, a way of life for which she was often criticized by feminists. However, Moore’s personal life often ran counter to the perky, cheerful on-screen persona she routinely projected, and she rarely spoke openly about the many challenges she faced – a sometimes-troubled relationship with her parents, two divorces, the loss of her only son in a gun shot accident, the untimely deaths of her two younger siblings, alcohol abuse and coping with complications from type 1 diabetes. As she aged, however, the fighter within her found ways to work through the anguish, such as choosing projects that enabled her to purge her pain, receiving treatment at the Betty Ford Clinic, becoming an advocate for her favorite causes and finding true love in a third marriage. The filmmaker tells Moore’s complex, moving and inspiring story with an array of clips from her work, archive interview footage with renowned journalists and celebrities, and ample voiceover observations from those who knew her and admired her work. The narrative is admittedly somewhat straightforward and formulaic, but it presents an excellent composite of images and insights into the life and work of a legend, one that’s bound to cause her to be seen in a new light and could well introduce her to a new generation of fans who may not have previously been aware of her many accomplishments. Take a bow, Mary.