Look, I will not say that I hated sitting through the film. Who doesn't like to be a voyeur for America's second family of tragic deaths right behind the Kennedy's? The Hemingways have suffered demons for generations. The kind that send you to a chosen early grave. And, Running From Crazy, Academy Award winner, Barbara Kopple's attempt to show the crazy behind seven suicides in three generations is admirable, but I have to say that Mariel Hemingway's overly earnest presentation of the tragic childhood that she has overcome left me cold. As in without empathy. It reminded me of the scene in http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0125439/Notting Hill where everyone goes around saying why they are the most pathetic of them all so they can receive the last brownie on the plate. Julia goes into her routine about being scrutinized by every tabloid, two very painful plastic surgeries and one abusive boyfriend. Everyone around the table looks at her and then mumbles, "No way sister."
I get that our poor, pathetic Mariel didn't have a happy childhood, parents that could rise above their own issues, sisters that were supportive. I get that she lacked kid boundaries that meant her parents allowed her to leave school before finishing even high school. But she presents them as if she were living in the Warsaw Ghetto, without anything other than a cursory glance at what she did get - instant access to fame and money allowing her to do exactly what she wanted, for example. Never a care for how she would survive financially, for another. Or the fact that many of her decisions were hers as an adult, not as a child looking for a hand to hold. "I never felt like I was seen," she says. This from one of the most photographed women in the world during her heyday is interesting. She is making up for it now. Everything centers around her and her issues and thoughts. Her boyfriend. Her daughter. A few random details.
God, those Hemingways live in a stunning cocoon of beauty. Makes you want to pack up and head west to Ketchum, Idaho. And, they all have legs longer than the Golden Gate Bridge for Christ's sake. And, they can hit a perfect tennis forehand, and climb the face of rocks with their bare hands, and sit and watch one of the saddest bullfight scenes I've ever seen on film with a perfect tear running down a perfect Hemingway profile. And, none of them ever seems to carry a purse, let alone pull out a checkbook. They have big lives, that burn brightly, and in many cases die out early as do so many brightly falling stars.
Mariel needs to watch this film from outside herself, although I don't think she has it in her. She needs to see that while she said she had to take care of her mother her whole life, her daughter, who couldn't be more than in her early twenties, is taking care of her. When her daughter puts her hand on her mother's back during a speech Mariel gives in Central Park where she drags her daughter out to stand next to her during its delivery as if the poor girl were her nursemaid was painful to watch.
And, the young stud boyfriend of Mariel? Seriously? There is a moment when she is climbing the face of a rock wall and she calls out to him to help her decide which way to climb and he doesn't answer. This is after they decimated two cars driving recklessly down a rock-ridden dirt road, only to argue about whether or not to complete the climb. The boyfriend (Will) never answers her. She is all alone in the climb upward. I had a pang - however brief - of empathy for her.
When your last name is Hemingway, you are never sure why anyone is around you. Now, let's talk about Kopple's introduction of the film. I saw the premiere at The Hamptons Film Festival. She was brought into the film by Oprah's OWN people, and one would think since it was their idea and their funding that gave her this opportunity, she would thank them properly for recognizing the relevance of the documentary and funding it. As in paying her to make it. Instead, she ridicules them for their title Seven Suicides which was on the OWN website and made some of those she wanted to interview shy away because of it. Really? You couldn't call OWN and suggest they rename it? Running from Crazy would be more compelling for someone to agree to be interviewed? Where is the loyalty?
And, in the Q&A a question about how Kopple was given such intimate access to Mariel for the film. She said they hit it off from the beginning and Mariel trusted her. She said it with pride. Mariel was right. Kopple never questions even one of the accusatory premises that Mariel makes about everyone in her family outside of herself. My sadness was that the audience bought it. They applauded and commented on Mariel's "bravery" in coming to the forefront. I saw it differently. Mariel lives a life that services her own nook and crannies with reckless regard for others. Or, that's what I saw in the film. Her daughters. Her sister. Her ex husband. It's all about her. No sentence when she is talking to her family starts with the word 'you,' and when you consider that this film was supposed to be about the Hemingway legacy of mental illness, not a Mariel retrospective, it gives new meaning to the word narcissist.
Too harsh Christine? Maybe. But, you gotta write what you see, and so I end on the note that each of us must love our own lives and live them as authentically as possible. And, at some point, you must look out the windshield in front of you and stop looking in the rear view mirror. It's smaller than the windshield for a reason. It's time, Mariel.