"Eddie Izzard: Believe"
07 Oct 2009
LA TIMES REVIEW
'Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story' goes inside the character and the man
Sarah Townsend's comprehensive documentary uses home movies, interviews and performance footage to sketch a heartfelt portrait of the comedian-actor and the early tragedy that still drives him.
Sarah Townsend's "Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story" illuminates the life and career of the protean, gender-bending comedian-actor through an astonishing collection of footage. Beginning with home movies from Izzard's childhood, the film moves through years of performances on the street and in small clubs to a triumphant West End debut, at which time he declared himself a transvestite, to his international acclaim as a stand-up comic and as a stage and screen actor.
This fine documentary, understandably years in the making, commences with Izzard's humiliating experience in being accused of using old material in a new show and unfolds as he launches a British workshop tour of his 2003 comeback, "Sexie," as a prelude to a world tour that culminated later that year in London's vast Wembley Arena, where he played before 44,000 fans over four days. Townsend's extensive interviews with Izzard backstage and elsewhere frame the performance footage as well as encounters and reminisces with friends, colleagues and fans.
Izzard spent his early childhood in a pleasant Belfast suburb, his happiness cut short by the death of his mother. Later, he was thrown out of Sheffield University because he was so obsessed with performing in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For years, Izzard was sustained by iron-willed determination.
He is a short, chunky, rugged man, and when he assumes drag he goes for androgyny. It's a look he finds comfortable, and it also frees him from gender in the wide-ranging commentary that underlies his comic sense of the absurd. His easy, unapologetic acceptance of his onstage transvestism allows his audiences to respond in kind. Only once has he been physically attacked, in a Cambridge street, and he stood his ground in the ensuing fight. Although the film implies that Izzard is heterosexual, it does not delve into his private life. Townsend saves her most poignant moment for near the end, when Izzard, reflecting upon his mother, says, "Everything I do is trying to get her back."
-- Kevin Thomas "Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes.
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