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I confess I didn't know much about Didion's personal life--her famous in-laws, her famous friends--and the documentary flicks out photographs, interviews, and archival footage that are a delight to discover. The film gives you a peek into the intimate life of an intriguing person who worked hard to stay hidden, even though her books are so personal. There is a detachment she employed as a writer to report back to us. The documentary strips away some of the distance.
I found the interviews with Dunne fascinating. Her answers surprised me. I loved seeing how the thread of her life weaved through politics, subcultures, music, film, and her own family. And kudos to Griffin Dunne (and several members of her extended family) for putting this together right now. A reflection worthy of your time.
In this documentary, you see Joan as she is now - a frail and elderly woman with multiple sclerosis, being interviewed by her nephew, Griffin Dunne. Joan is brilliant and, even though she is in her 80s, you see a spark in her eyes. By the way, she was also married to John Gregory Dunne, a very famous writer as well (whose brother you may know - Dominick Dunne), and you feel like you know John by the end of this documentary.
During this documentary, she talks about a point in her marriage when she and John were going to get a divorce, but moved instead, and eventually stayed together and grew even closer. This amazed me because I assume (since I am not married) and hear that marriages go through peaks and valleys. To see this whole documentary and then wonder what would have happened if they had divorced when they were having problems instead of staying together as they did, this story would not be the same at all. Even after having their problems, it seems (by all accounts) that these two had a great love.
This is not only a documentary, but a lesson for life in a way. I only wish I can be as strong as Joan is when and if I reach her age. She is very open and honest about everything, and you see a side of her that makes you feel like you are watching her without her knowledge -- thoroughly fascinating.
Toward the end of this documentary, there are some very sad and shocking things that happen, but what is amazing is the way that Joan (unprepared as we all are for the death of our loved ones) proceeds with her life, and you will find the way she deals with these tragedies astonishingly brave. I knew Joan was and is a wonderful and a one-of-a-kind writer, but I didn't know what an amazing person she is as well.
This documentary is a must-see, even if you have just for the first time learned about Joan Didion. It is an especially beautiful experience for lovers of Joan's writing, as well as lovers of literature and life.