There’s inspiration behind the comedy in Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins
Molly Ivins perfectly summed up her approach to political journalism with this quote: “I figured there’s only three possible reactions to most of politics. You can laugh, you can cry, or you can throw up. Crying and throwing up are bad for you. You might as well laugh.”
It was Molly’s willingness to laugh, and to make others laugh, that put her in the spotlight as a political journalist. She used her charismatic, extroverted personality as a weapon to fight back against corruption in politics. She defended free speech and tackled subjects (and people) that many journalists were too scared to go after.
For those who may not be familiar with Molly Ivins, she was a political journalist and best-selling author best known for her quick wit and humor. Standing at six-foot-tall, she was proud to be a Texan in every way possible. She drank, cursed and told it like it was for nearly four decades. On top of these characteristics, she was also a democrat in a predominantly red state. As you can imagine, she stood out quite well from the crowded pack of political journalists.
Director Janice Engel delivers a documentary that is inspiring in many ways. Today’s political environment is a mess, to put it lightly. While there are plenty of brash commentators out there who will put on an act to gain attention, it was Molly’s sincerity that shined through in her messages. We need more journalists like Molly Ivins. Someone who can make both parties listen. And interestingly enough, her comedy had a way of getting people to listen. Even when she was delivering a joke (many times at the expense of a politician), there was truth in her message.
And while I found Ivins to be funny (she named her dog Shit, if that helps give you some idea of her twisted sense of humor), it was her sincerity that won me over. She talks about her belief in the American people. Her belief is that we will stand up and fight for change when it’s needed. That message hits home today more than ever.
Engel also shines some light on Molly’s personal life. Along with her battle with breast cancer at the end of her life, she also fought with alcohol for many years. At first, she attributed alcohol to the fun, comedic side of her personality. But eventually, alcohol took over her life in a much larger way. We also get a glimpse into her workaholic behavior that led her to discussing some of her regrets in life, which include not having children. All of these glimpses into her personal life allow us to see her as a real person beyond the commentary that she delivered.
As far as political documentaries go, this one really is a lot of fun. That’s a testament to Molly’s sense of humor. She seriously could have been a stand-up comic. But Engel’s editing here is really tight and fast-paced in a way that tells Molly’s story without ever getting too bogged down in politics. In other words, you won’t get bored with this one. In fact, Molly wrote a book called, “Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?” She had a lot to say, and in this film, you get some of her career highlights that will be sure to crack you up, no matter which political party you affiliate yourself with.
Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins opens today at the Ritz Five.