Rebecca Miller's film is a portrait of her father, his times and insights, built around impromptu interviews shot over many years in the family home. This celebration of the great American ...
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Rebecca Miller's film is a portrait of her father, his times and insights, built around impromptu interviews shot over many years in the family home. This celebration of the great American playwright is quite different from what the public has ever seen. It is a close consideration of a singular life shadowed by the tragedies of the Red Scare and the death of Marilyn Monroe; a bracing look at success and failure in the public eye; an honest accounting of human frailty; a tribute to one artist by another. Arthur Miller: Writer invites you to see how one of America's sharpest social commentators formed his ideologies, how his life reflected his work, and, even in some small part, shaped the culture of our country in the twentieth century.Written by
HBO Documentary Films
I watch a lot of documentaries, especially those involving film, entertainment, or the arts in some capacity. It is a genre that I very much enjoy (when done right, of course). What I found here, however, was a doc that seemed to be lacking a clear focus or solid production values, producing an experience that was decidedly blasé pretty much all the way through.
Probably the key thing to understand about "Arthur Miller: Writer" is this: if you are looking for an in-depth analysis of Miller's plays, you are in the wrong place. While the plays are discussed, obviously, the fare here is much more focused on his family/personal life. In that sense, this doc is pretty straightforward in terms of scope. It starts at the beginning of Miller's life and progresses right along to the end.
The good stuff here is when connections are made between Miller's plays and the events that shaped his real life. To be honest, that is probably why most people are watching this to begin with (having experienced one of his plays). The middle sections of this roughly 100-minute piece are the best in this regard, as they mesh well the era of his biggest plays and his observations about them.
What I really didn't like about "Writer", however, is that it almost feels like more of a stitched-together amalgam of other documentaries as opposed to one with a clear message or focus. Ostensibly, it seems to favor his daughter's home video interviews of him, but the problem of course is that those videos by themselves aren't worthy of outside viewing, as home videos so often turn out to be. They need context, and most of the time "Writer" fails (or at best barely succeeds) in providing that valuable component.
Overall, I found myself getting distracted a lot and losing focus when it came to watching this, a problem I am usually not afflicted with when it comes to documentaries. Like I've said, I think this is primarily because the entire piece seems pieced together, with far too much focus on Arthur's strictly personal life, leaving a gaping hole in what we all wanted to see: more connective tissue involving his plays.
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