STEVE! (martin) a documentary in 2 pieces – Then and Now

Part 2. Steve Martin in "STEVE! (martin) a documentary in 2 pieces," premiering March 29, 2024 on Apple TV+.

The life and career of Steve Martin is too much for one documentary so audiences are getting STEVE! (martin) a documentary in 2 pieces.

Little did I know upon attending the world premiere of Morgan Neville and Jeff Malmberg‘s The Saint of Second Chances last June that the Oscar-winning filmmaker was working on a documentary about Steve Martin. In any event, the multi-hyphenate comedian’s life makes for such a compelling documentary. Not just one documentary mind you but two different ones. Personally speaking, I like how Neville approaches Martin’s life in two parts: then and now. It shows such a contrast between Martin in his early career and Martin as a person able to reflect on his life. “Then” is driven by archival clips while “Now” focuses on vérité footage and the traditional talking heads that drive celebrity documentaries. The approach is so unique that anyone working on “Then” could not see the work being done on “Now” until close to completion.

"STEVE! (martin) a documentary in 2 pieces" key artwork, premiering March 29, 2024 on Apple TV+.
“STEVE! (martin) a documentary in 2 pieces” key artwork, premiering March 29, 2024 on Apple TV+.

Morgan Neville is the perfect filmmaker to tell Steve Martin’s story. I give a lot of credit to how the filmmaker preps his documentary work. In this case, it’s meeting with the multi-hyphenate, gaining his trust and then gaining the access to the archives. Steve Martin has been on screens for over a half century so there’s a wealth of material that Neville and his team had to scan in and digitize. Believe me, it’s worth it. During the filmmaking process, Steve Martin would give the documentarian a heads up about Martin Short coming over and if he wanted to film it. The documentary is all the better because of it.

We get some of the classic bits and early TV appearances from the earlier years in Martin’s career. Of course, we get the classic “Excuse Me” bit. There’s also some insight into what brought Saturday Night Live into Martin’s life and how he kept coming back to host the show. Steve Martin is synonymous with SNL in as much as Bob Hope and Billy Crystal are with the Oscars. Martin is such a reliable host that he and Alec Baldwin go back and forth for the most shows hosted. It’s a friendly rivalry at this point for the two Platinum Club members, who are now tied at 17 shows a piece. Steve Martin tied Baldwin at 17 shows when he co-hosted this season with Martin Short. Someone could probably make another documentary about his SNL appearances in and of themselves.

Martin could have become a stand-up comedy legend but he quit at 35. How many people just up and walk away during the pinnacle of their career? And yet, he never truly quit being a comedian if you look at his acting choices. If you’re of my generation, you grew up knowing Steve Martin as an actor in films such as Father of the Bride. It is only in recent years that the multi-hyphenate would star as a TV series regular in Only Murders in the Building. Interestingly, he never had any plans to star. This is some of the insight that audiences will get during “Now.” Martin might not be performing any solo stand-up comedy shows but he still tours with Martin Short. Neville goes behind the scenes at how the shows come together.

“Now” allows family and friends to talk about Martin and what makes him happy. Seriously though, it really brings a completely new perspective into knowing Steve Martin as a person. It wasn’t until the Father of the Bride films that he gave serious thought into becoming a father. This is where we really get to see the boundaries between personal and public life come into play. You probably wouldn’t know Steve Martin is a father because it’s not something that actively comes up. I’ve seen other films that make sure to include a celebrity’s children. However, this is not one of them.

When we talk about bits and such, there are clips of TV interviews that show how Martin excels as comedy. His favorite part of making movies? Getting to appear on TV and promote them. Even as the actor has taken home the Make Twain Prize for American Humor and other lifetime achievement accolades, he still has it. His comments in the film’s production notes are equally funny and what I’d expect from him: “I’m glad they chose me to be the subject of a biography about me.” I would not expect anything different from Steve Martin.

STEVE! (martin) a documentary in 2 pieces is a must-watch documentary for anybody that calls themselves a comedy fan.

DIRECTOR: Morgan Neville
FEATURING: Steve Martin, Martin Short, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Lorne Michaels, Finn Wittrock, Tina Fey, Eric Idle, Diane Keaton, Selena Gomez

Apple TV+ will release STEVE! (martin) a documentary in 2 pieces on March 29, 2024. Grade: 4.5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.