Offering insight into the life of Gilda Radner, Love, Gilda is incredibly poignant and touching.
When Gilda Radner joined the original Saturday Night Live cast in 1975, nobody expected that she be a household name through creating characters such as Rosanne Rosanadanna, Emily Litella and Baba Wawa. In doing so, the comedian became an inspiration to so many young women.
Director Lisa D’Apolito wisely grounds the narrative by letting Radner tell her own story by way of audio recordings and letters. Radner was born as her parents were closing in on 50 years old. With her mother not wanting to deal with the Detroit winters, the future comedian would be taken out of school for four months of the year. It’s not a way anyone would want to live Gilda’s father developed a brain tumor when she was 12 and passed away two years later.
Radner attended an all-girls high school, where she was active in drama. She followed this up by attending the University of Michigan and became a theater major. Graduating college didn’t happen because of falling in love with Canadian sculptor Jeffrey Rubinoff. This is where fate had other plans in store for her as this took her to Toronto. Without Toronto, it’s likely that Radner wouldn’t have signed onto the all-star Godspell cast. This paved the way for The Second City to snatch her up like everyone else at the time. According to Second City’s Andrew Alexander, Radner wasn’t as strong of an improviser as Dan Aykroyd or Joe Flaherty.
From Second City, Radner moved to New York where she joined the National Lampoon Lemmings stage show. It was here in which John Belushi acted as both a teacher and a mentor to the rising star. Following the Lemmings run, Radner joined the National Lampoon Radio Hour. Finally, it was a call to join SNL.
According to former SNL staff writer Alan Zweibel, one of the film’s executive producers, Gilda had suggested that a woman going on the news would need to be gross. This gave way to the aforementioned Rosanne Rosanadanna. Interestingly, during the time in which Gilda was cancer-free, Zweibel was running It’s Gary Shandling Show. Gilda wanted Alan’s in order to help her “make cancer funny.” The jokes were very much a hit with the crowd.
Director Lisa D’Apolito ultimately gives us a documentary that should further define Gilda Radner’s legacy. With audio tapes and hand-written letters, the film is very much Gilda in spirit through and through. Viewers get insight into his hospitalization for an eating disorder in the late 1970s, the short-lived marriage to G.E. Smith, her marriage to Gene Wilder, and sadly the bout with cancer that would eventually take her life weeks before her 43rd birthday.
An incredibly poignant and touching documentary, Love, Gilda celebrates the legacy of Gilda Radner.
DIRECTOR: Lisa D’Apolito
FEATURING: Chevy Chase, Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudoloph, Melissa McCarthy, Martin Short, Cecily Strong, Alan Zweibel, Andrew Alexander
An official selection of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, Love, Gilda was the Opening Night selection.