Rolling Along is a live theatrical recording of Senator Bill Bradley’s one-man-show performed at the Signature Theatre in December 2021.
What I find most impressive is how Bradley committed this show to memory. Bradley workshopped on the road, getting notes afterwards from the audiences. With Covid and everything, he would rehearse while taking a walk in Central Park. Eventually, he would take his show to Broadway. There’s a lot to enjoy about Rolling Along although I wish I had known this was happening when I visited NYC back in December 2021. It’s nice to see the archival clips edited into the recording–one, which I touch on later, should require a content warning. The Last Dance‘s Mike Tollin directs while Frank Oz and Spike Lee both executive produce.
The basic gist of Bradley’s biography is that he was born 35 miles south of St. Louis in Crystal City, Missouri. His father was a banker. Bradley later went to Princeton, where he was a star on the hardwood, before becoming a Rhodes Scholar. Following his time at Oxford, he played several years for the New York Knicks. Following his time in the NBA, Bradley turned to public service, serving three terms in the U.S. Senate. After running for president and losing the Democratic Party presidential primary to Vice President Al Gore, Bradley would later become–in his words–“my father’s banker son.” What I didn’t know about him was that he was an evangelical for a time. He would later question faith and such when he saw what was happening during the Civil Rights movement and how they were ignorant.
One of my favorite anecdotes is when Bradley talks of learning a Russian phrase at Princeton prior to the 1964 Olympics. It was just one phrase but it was more than enough to throw Russia off their rhythm. This is one of the funnier moments in Rolling Along because Bradley also talks about the important subjects and how they would impact his own life, including his New York Knicks teammates. He may have been able to benefit from his skin color but other New York Knicks teammates were not so lucky. His own Princeton roommate, Dan Okimoto, grew up in a Japanese internment camp in Arizona. Bradley grew up learning about some of America’s gravest sins but not once did he learn about the awful camps.
Bradley doesn’t shy away from the important subjects. He discusses his being pro-choice and hiring pro-choice women on his staff because he shouldn’t be dictating what they do with their body. His show was prior to the overturning of Roe v. Wade but he mentions how a former girlfriend once had a botched abortion. They lost touch but it was a sentimental reunion some 20 years later at the airport.
There’s no content warning before the film but because of Bradley’s speech in response to the Rodney King verdict, there’s a tape of speech on the U.S. Senate floor where he bangs his pen against the podium mixed in with police beating up King. It’s not easy to watch but it shows just how much things still have not changed.
Bradley’s one-man-show was a four-night event on Broadway. Thanks to the joys of technology, many will be able to see it beyond the famed New York theater district. It’s a good thing, too, because I found myself fascinated while listing to Bradley tell his story for various reasons. In addition to writing about film, I’m a basketball fan and a politico. There’s a universe where I stuck with my political ambitions but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Anyway, I learned something about Bradley while watching this performance–he almost ended up at Duke University. Thankfully, he changed decisions a few days before and enrolled at Princeton University instead. Of course, the Kentucky Wildcats were one of many schools offering a scholarship.
There’s something else to watching Rolling Along–what if Bill Bradley defeated Al Gore? Could he have defeated George W. Bush during that November election? Or would a change in candidates not have even made a difference. I guess we’ll never truly know. Everybody who watches Rolling Along should be able to take something away from viewing, if not a deeper appreciation for Bill Bradley as a person.
DIRECTOR: Mike Tollin
SCREENWRITER: Bill Bradley
FEATURING: Bill Bradley
Rolling Along holds its world premiere during the 2023 Tribeca Festival in the Spotlight Documentary section. Grade: 4/5
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