Gilda Radner: It's Always Something (2002)
“I’m going to write a book about my life with cancer” exclaims Gilda Radner, “with the emphasis on life!” If only the makers of this biopic had followed her lead. Though it uses the recording of the autobiography’s audio version as a framing device, the film devotes much of its running time to this funny lady’s sad death.
Raised in a loving Jewish family in Detroit, the overweight teenage Radner learns to disarm her tormentors at school through comedy. Flash forward 14 years, and a now skinny Radner is performing in Toronto with Second City. Shortly thereafter, along with fellow troupe members Bill Murray, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, she returns to the U.S. to star in a new television show, 'Saturday Night Live'.
Here follows some of this biopic’s best and yet most awkward scenes, for despite pitch perfect impersonations of the SNL crew, the faithful recreation of the show’s sketches don’t date well, regardless of how many shots we see of guffawing audiences. Equally encumbered by their material are Jami Gertz as Gilda Radner and Tom Rooney as Gene Wilder. Both turn in fine performances but are unable to overcome lacklustre direction and a script that mires itself in Radner’s neuroses, bulimia and battle with cancer.
In one of the couple’s rare moments of joy, Radner tells Wilder to use a secret code to signal his intent to continue their relationship. Regrettably, while “the ducks may have landed”, this biopic lays an egg.
Movie sticks pretty close to the autobiography Gilda Radner wrote towards the end of her life, though her show on Broadway was more successful than depicted here.
Apart from the behind-the-scenes meeting of Gilda Radner and Gene Wilder on the set of Hanky Panky and a homage of sorts to Wilder’s role in Young Frankenstein, there is no mention of the couple’s respective film careers. Instead we get numerous scene recreations from Radner’s “Saturday Night Live” performances and her appearance on “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show”.