John Belushi in Focus: What a New Film Gets Right and What Its Mrs.

In his brief six years on the national stage, no comic was more popular than John Belushi. At the height of his fame, in the late 1970s, he also eclipsed Steve Martin and Robin Williams by starring in the top-notch new phenomenon, “Saturday Night Live”, and which was then the highest-grossing comedy film. The “Animal House”. “While his band, Blues Brothers, had the nation’s No. 1 album,” briefcase Full of Blues. “

And yet, the wild successes of his life are still partially controlled by his sudden death from a drug overdose at the age of 33 in 1982. Two years later, Bob Woodward launched a rare politics to release a book about Belushi. , “Wired,” a bizarrely clinical, coldly best seller, which focused on the star’s debunked final days. It reads like a series of “Music Behind” episodes transmitted by an accountant. That Controversial book Still looms over the legacy of Belushi, and while there have been many Attempts to fill her story, including one Memoirs by his widow It decides on Woodward, a new film by documentary veteran RJ Cutler (“September issue“) Is the first image that purely humanizes Belushi while the rest is clear.

Film key, “Belushi” (Debut Sunday on Showtime), its primary source. In documentaries, they can distinguish between textbook history and entertaining drama. Cutler draws attention to personal photographs, childhood videos, old interviews, but most of all, Belushi’s letters present a lot more introspection and sentiment than Bluto, the frat-boy icon of “Animal House” Are famous characters. Cutler does not look back as much as trying to tell the story of Belushi in the present tense. It has shortcomings, including an important critical voice to understand and explain the beauty of the star. But amidst the vibrancy of comedy documentaries, Cutler’s film is balanced, illuminating, and compelling.

On television, Belushi appeared as a blue-collar man who “represented the messy bedrooms across America” ​​as Steven Spielberg, who once cast him in “1941”. Described Him. But Belushi was also driven and ambitious, the kind of man who kept his good reviews in his pocket, he was alert to artistic credibility. A year after the 1975 premiere of “SNL”, he voiced concern that the show repeatedly leaned heavily on characters (such as samurai and bee appearances) and catchphrases and created a star system – all common criticisms for the next four decades, Although Belushi was a rare star during her time, ready to go public.

Belushi was a television star who stated that he did not like television. Lorne Michaels originally did not want to keep him on the job, and one understands that after Belushi’s tenure, the balance of power between the producer and star of “Saturday Night Live” will never happen again. There is a turbulent scene in the documentary, when Belushi’s health deteriorated so much that a doctor tells Michaels that if the comedian performed on the show that week, his chances of survival would be 50-50. “I could live with those obstacles,” Michaels says dryly.

This story came out in 2005 Oral history about belushi, Which is based on the tape interview, which is also used in the movie. In that book, Al Franken states that Michaels would later force Chris Farley to go to rehab, adopting a less compassionate approach with Belushi, allowing him to “only make sure he could work for the show.” One imagines that Michaels’ experience with Belshi also informs him. Dealing with mental health issues Pete Davidson Today.

But reading about this does not have the same effect as hearing Michaels’ banging voice. He offers a charming window into ruthlessness – even during the more carefree, sit-at-your-pants era – that helped make him the most resilient juggler in comedy.

“Belushi” risked plunging into myth, presenting the star as a Dylan-like figure, a rebel from the middle of the country who writes poetry and is bald on fame. Cutler includes Belushi’s response when a journalist asks him what his father did: the hit man. (He actually ran a restaurant.) But it does not shy away from his sexism, his inconsistencies or his self-destructive impulses. Cutler tells a harrowing tale of the effects of Belushi’s drug use in a simple litany of photographs, with a fakir turning into a bloated, empty eye. There are some surprisingly moments of sadness, such as an interview with Jeanne Schult in which Belushi looks completely defeated.

The explanation of his downfall is a uniquely structured narrative of segregation, which involves the death of his grandmother after the loss of a trusted bodyguard and, most gruesomely, the arrangement with his wife that presupposes his death. . (“I’m afraid he will die,” she writes in a letter.) He also writes of his own destruction, with the coming of him as the tragic hero who dents. While the belliness of “Wired” seems remote, a figure seen from afar, these private letters give a picture of her inner life that brings us closer to her. This is the difference between a quick comic sketch and an investigative psychological drama.

This rise-and-fall arc can be so quick that you can almost pretend how interested a documentary is as a comedian in Belushi. But decades after his death, many people still do not know his work today, and the film has made him strange. This is an opportunity because you can easily find the echoes of his life in his comedy. He appeared in the first sketch in the history of “SNL”, suddenly falling to the floor and dying, and in the third episode, his incredible impression of Joe Cocker ended in convulsions. One of his successes, an appearance on Weekend Update, also ended with a heart attack.

Bell Nikushi, specializing in impressions of other charismatic cultural icons such as Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando, and William Shatner, attacked his roles with a visceral, explosive invasion. The funniest moment in “The Blues Brothers” is when he gets into a gig, a parent in a fancy restaurant: “How much for a little girl?“) But what made him more than just a wild and crazy man was a broad tender, romantic streak, especially in less verbal scenes.

His physical, both athletic and beautiful, was his real gift. My favorite her Sketch A wordless difference is with Gilda Redner in a laundromat where they meet, see that there is just one machine available and decide to put their clothes together. It is a simple, sweet romance, unimaginable in today’s “SNL”, it is done by Pantomime which is not just elegant or thoughtful. Belushi gave birth to an idea as well as anyone, with the most pronounced eyebrows in comedy.

It is surprising what can happen. If Belushi had lived, could they have made more hits and started writing Bill Murray (noting “Ghostbusters” with Dan Akroyd as Belishe) or got away with a deteriorating reputation like Chevy Bose?

Belushi’s obscure final films, “Continental Divide” and “Neighbors”, both provide evidence for either passage. They show him playing the role of a traditional romantic lead and a repressed class, trying to work against his reputation. Both films were moderately unsuccessful, artistically and commercially, but ambitious, interesting. Mostly, they bring to mind that the next supernova “SNL” star Eddie Murphy asks Playboy what he thought Shravan Belushi died: “what a waste.”

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