Being Mary Tyler Moore is a documentary that allows the seven-time Emmy-winning actress to tell her own story through archival footage.
Outside of the archival clips featuring Moore speaking with interviewers, James Adolphus takes the smart approach of not using talking heads in the traditional way. While there are a number of voiceover interviews, nobody is seen speaking on camera. Some are for a brief clip while others like James L. Brooks and Jim Burrows are extensive. This allows audiences to see them discussing the TV legend against the backdrop of photos or clips. While we get to hear from those who knew her, the Moore interviews are what drive the film. No stone goes unturned, whether it was her childhood, breaking into Hollywood, or her later career.
It’s a credit to Dr. S. Robert Levine for turning down attempts to make a biopic about Mary Tyler Moore. If not for a Vanity Fair cover story on Lena Waithe, there probably wouldn’t even be a documentary film either. However. Dr. Levine saw something in Waithe that made her the right person to help helm a documentary on the iconic TV legend. We’re talking about a legend that was iconic for the changes she brought to both womanhood and femininity in both The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Moore would pave the way for so many women to become TV stars in the future. Hell, her CBS show aired on a Saturday night, an evening when people were staying in and watching TV! Anyway, how do you tell her story? My personal opinion: only through a documentary.
Filmmaker James Adolphus found his way into finding the message through reading the actress’s memoir, After All. It may have been a three-year process in directing the film but let me tell you, it’s absolutely worth it when you see the final product. When it comes to showing any MTM clips, this doc has the must-see clips: “Chuckles Bites the Dust” and the series finale. Much like any Carol Burnett documentary or special must feature “Went with the Wind,” any MTM doc must feature these two clips as well. One is the biggest laugh on the series while the other is an emotional moment for everyone. Without them, it would otherwise be incomplete.
The filmmakers have access to Moore’s personal archives, including photos and videos. It’s through this and the interviews that make it a comprehensive project. All in all, the documentary will work as a companion to 1995 memoir After All. If there’s no audio or video interview where Moore speaks about something, it’s not included in the film. Even when you think you know a lot from all the materials out there, you’ll probably still learn something. For instance, the only way Universal would allow Moore to perform in a Broadway show in the late 1960s was to put her in any film they want. The Breakfast at Tiffany’s musical failed on Broadway and would have a terrible impact Moore’s career. A reunion special, Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman, would put Moore in the spotlight again. Huge ratings would lead CBS to give her a series.
Being Mary Tyler Moore is a definitive documentary that will introduce the iconic legend to a new generation of fans.
DIRECTOR: James Adolphus
FEATURING: Mary Tyler Moore, Rob Reiner, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Jim Burrows, Ed Asner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Lena Waithe, Phylicia Rashad, Bernadette Peters, Joel Grey, Allan Burns, James L. Brooks, Norman Lear, Debra Martin Chase, Treva Silverman, Susan Silver, Dr. S. Robert Levine
HBO will air Being Mary Tyler Moore at 8-10 PM ET/PT and it will be available to stream on Max. Grade: 5/5
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