18 February 2016 | Quinoa1984
good for nostalgia, wish it was better
7 out of 10 may seem like a good rating for I Am Chris Farley, and on the whole this is a documentary worth watching, primarily for those who have seen Farley's work back in the 90's (I want to see more of the perspective of someone who isn't a fan, or was too young to see the impact at the time). And for myself the work of this man has resonance from a specific time; as an adolescent, Farley came at just the right time in my life via his work on SNL and movies like Tommy Boy and Coneheads, and I even found as an overweight kid that he was kind of an odd role model.
Here was a guy acting like a silly fool on TV and in movies, but in the roles he was committed completely, without any equivocation, while also having a pure, kind spirit about how he related to other actors and characters: a man-child in a way that wasn't stupid in an obnoxious way (a danger with comedian stars today). Among the sort of BIG comedic stars of his time he went even BIGGER than someone like Belushi (maybe slightly less, uh, nuanced if that's possible as comparison), and with a drive all his own. His death was a shattering moment in my life, though I wonder what would've happened had I grown up more with him around - but for a 13 year old, he was just about perfect.
This documentary looks at his life from start to end, from his childhood and early years gaining his footing as someone who just liked to perform for people on stage (from small clubs to Second City), to SNL and stardom. There are plenty of talking-heads to keep it all moving, plus photos and selected clips from when he was on stage at things like the small club in Milwaukee where he got more focused as a performer, and it's his family that sheds light on a man who was loaded for bear with passion for being silly and making people laugh (sometimes to borderline dangerous results - an anecdote about taking out his penis in a high school typing class is very funny and could only work with Farley and the context of the place).
There might have been a slight quality to some of this first half, and I think it's simply because the directors are making something for TV; this was shot for the Spike TV channel, and the filmmakers use light, bouncy (but very generic) music to move parts of it along, and the same type of generic music over sadder/darker moments when they pop up (mostly near the end of the movie). I also wish that the filmmakers, for all of the clips from SNL (of course) and Tommy Boy and Black Sheep, got other clips were featured to see his different roles (Wayne's World, Coneheads, Airheads, the final performances in Almost Heroes or Dirty Work), or even the audio for certain clips from his very early stage work. But most of all I wish the documentary were longer, and that the filmmakers went more in depth about the dark side of his life; it's not that it isn't touched on, and it's seen how he slipped off into despairing situations in addiction, but it's not given equal weight, and his final year is mostly skimmed over.
And yet the clips that are featured are wonderful, and the anecdotes from certain people like Bob Odenkirk (you can tell Farley was so important a person, nevermind talent, to him), Lorne Michaels, and cast from SNL like Myers and Sandler and Spade make for shaping up Farley as this genuinely good person who was just genuinely uncontrollable as a comic talent and (unfortunately) as an addict. I found myself laughing, big belly laughs I mean, for scenes from SNL that I've seen many times. Something about Farley was so genuine as a performer, there was no real BS about him, and he would go for a joke even if it wasn't there (the skit on the show where he's in the beard at the restaurant) which just shows his total tenacity. And yet it's also revelatory to how he was a solid Christian man in spirit. What's most fascinating about I Am Chris Farley is seeing a man who's own love of excess as an actor and as a man was his own undoing. I wish there was more detail.