A very HBO-specific tribute but engaging nonetheless
The passing of James Gandolfini late last year did take me by surprise as it did with many because, as someone says during this film, I did sort of think he was a larger than life character and perhaps indestructible. Best known for Tony Soprano (by far his best work), Gandolfini's time at HBO is the focus here – The Sopranos of course but also various documentaries and other events which occurred while he was under contract with them. As such I worried that perhaps the film would be too focused on him as Tony Soprano rather than him as a person but actually it did a pretty good job.
Mostly driven by talking heads that worked very closely with him, we do get some very personal memories and observations. The downside of the structure is that, although it is not just platitudes, it generally is very affectionate and complimentary material delivered in a very polished and professional way as you would expect from HBO. I'm not saying that I wanted to have criticism but it would have been good to acknowledge how much he gave in his performances and how much inhabiting his characters did to him as a person. Perhaps it is unfair to expect this because ultimately it is a tribute very close to his actual death, but the film is perhaps a little bit too obvious in terms of what it does.
Worth seeing as a tribute – it has the weaknesses that comes with this type of thing but ultimately it is a moving sendoff from the TV show and people that we associated very closely with Gandolfini.