"The Life Of Reilly" ****

January 27, 2008

The latest showing by the Cinema Sundays Club was an absolute winner! I went in to it with some trepidation wondering how good could an 87 minute one man show by Charles Nelson Reilly about Charles Nelson Reilly really be. Even though it is still getting 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I couldn't understand why-until I actually witnessed his oratory of his own life. What I came away with was that this dude was one talented actor who had more than his share of family dysfunction to deal with. Although the younger generations (if they even knew who he was) remember him only as a frequent guest on Johnny Carson or TV game shows, his journey was much more diverse that that, and he takes you along on a ride that is both humorous & poignant. You'll leave with a totally different impression of this consummate actor whose had more than his share of heartbreak along the way. He retained his dignity and talent to the end (he died in 2007). All of this is now on display for all the world to see on the silver screen. Charles performed "Save It For The Stage" over 400 times-and this final show was shot in 2004. Directors Frank Anderson & Barry Poltermann have put together a fascinating montage of images that, combined with Charles' dialogue, paints a wonderful portrait of a talent who never fully got his due. It is supposed to open at The Charles in Baltimore in a couple of weeks. Historically, documentaries/performance films don't have a long theatrical run so wherever you are don't wait to check it out if and when it opens near you!

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