Director/ Producer: Amy Poehler
I don't know that I would have looked at Amy Poehler standing on one leg on SNL a couple decades ago and thought "documentarian", but - apparently along with her skills as a comedian/ actor/ director/ writer/ improviser/ producer, we can now include documentarian.
I had no interest in the recently released biopic by Aaron Sorkin. I'm not a Sorkin-head, and I generally find biopics of well-documented people are really about something going on with the creators, not the actual subjects. Maybe it's the history major in me, but coming up with make-believe scenes to illustrate some fundamental message imposed on people's lives, you're going to wind up with something between an impression and a grotesquerie. But, I dunno. Sometimes it works.
Documentary, done well, tends to surface actual themes and truths about the subjects as directors find their story in repeated beats in research and interviews. And when it comes to real people who, once upon a time, were routinely covered in tabloids even after their deaths, who were in our living rooms for decades (I watched reruns of I Love Lucy as a kid), give me some talking heads, production stills and 8mm family movies every time.
There's a lot here I didn't know, much I did through osmosis mover the years. But it's well done and - with so many years since the passing of both Lucy and Desi, can afford to be fair-handed as possible while being sympathetic to certain quirks and challenges of both personalities. That Poehler would see some of her self in Lucille Ball, as a comedian who has been at the top, continues to enjoy celebrity and side projects that are not the heights of what she's known for, but which are solid nonetheless... I am not entirely shocked she picked Ball as a subject worth of research with whom she could spend time.
The one thing I found profoundly odd that the doc doesn't mention is that Lucy was about 40 when she started working on I Love Lucy. She was giving birth to children in her 40's, starring in her show and building Desilu essentially in the back-half of a career. I don't know if Poehler thought it was ageism or sexism or something that need not be discussed, but frankly I think it's vital information for how remarkable Lucille Ball was, because I've seen a few of her films from before the crafted I Love Lucy persona, and it's a different actor. And second acts should always be celebrated.
Anyway, I'm thrilled Poehler made the doc, and it's as well done as I think you could hope for.