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Friday, July 24, 2015

I AM CHRIS FARLEY Doesn't Give You a Better Sense of the Man Behind His Comedy

As I mentioned before, I wasn't a big fan of comedian Chris Farley though I appreciate that he has a huge following and was hoping to get a deeper understanding of his story and short-lived life in the new documentary, I AM CHRIS FARLEY. But instead, I ended up getting more of a fan made film that gushes over how beloved the comedian was among his Hollywood peers. Brent Hodge and Derik Murray's new film will likely captivate the comedian's legions of fans, though it may alienate the rest of us. And that's not the only problem with the film; it fails to humanize a man who, as many of us probably already know, was dealing with far more than whether or not he landed his comedic cues. 

In fact, it was what wasn't talked about that most struck me about the film--Farley's crippling insecurity and his drug and alcohol abuse (which ultimately led to his death at age 33). Sure, these things are acknowledged in the film, most notably from fellow comedian  Mike Myers, who couldn't help but recall a brief moment when he had to pull Farley aside and express his concern. But for a man who succumbed to these vices, was admitted to rehab 17 times, whose career was said to be fueled by his habits off-screen extremes, why avoid exploring these aspects of his humanity? Honestly, it's like the big pink elephant in the room. Though fellow superstars like Adam Sandler, Dan Akroyd, Molly Shannon, Tim Meadows and David Spade (many of whom got their start with Farley at Chicago's Second City and followed him to Saturday Night Live) color the film with anecdotes and stories about the Chris Farley they knew, the Chris Farley they admired and emulated, we don't get a well-rounded sense of what really plagued Farley. Disappointingly, the affirming sentiment of the film's title doesn't actually answer the question of who Chris Farley was. Was he a successful comedian? Yes. Was he a good friend, boyfriend, brother and son? All signs point to yes in the film. But who was Farley beyond his celebrity?

I AM CHRIS FARLEY doesn't do much to answer this lingering question, instead focusing on what made him so beloved in the comedy world. While it didn't have to be a downer or dwell on his inner demons, the decision to not capture this part of his humanity seems misguided, particularly for his fans. It just doesn't seem like a whole picture.

I AM CHRIS FARLEY opens in theaters on July 31st and comes to VOD August 11th.

Rating: C- (** out of *****)


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