Following its debut at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in earlier this year, Bobcat Goldthwait’s latest documentary Call Me Lucky finally hits the big screen.
Call Me Lucky is a biographical documentary film that tells the incredible life story of Barry Crimmins, a politically outspoken comedian-turned-activist who helped to expose child pornography online.
The documentary opens with video footage from a stand-up comedy night in Boston in 1990. Comedian Crimmins is on top form, delighting the audience with his political satire and scathingly ribald stand-up style comedy. We watch as director Bobcat Goldthwait (World’s Greatest Dad, God Bless America), juxtaposes the video footage with intimate interviews from friends, family and fellow comedians, as they reminisce about Crimmins precocious early beginnings to the foundation of the Ding Ho comedy club in Boston. It’s hard to believe at this point that the chain-smoking, beer-drinking, rage-fueled funnyman we see on screen (who also helped to fostered the talents of American comedians such as Tom Kenny, Marc Maron and Steven Wright) is the same man who became an honoured peace activist and acclaimed proponent of justice.
The tone of the film shifts at around 45 minutes in when Crimmins discusses another side of his character, revealing in detail his dark and painful past and long-suppressed, horrific sexual abuse as a child. His experience inspires him to search for fellow survivors online and it is here that Crimmins discovers that early AOL chats were horrific dens of child pornography. Disgusted and horrified by the images being passed between paedophiles online, Crimmins subjects himself to the true horrors by pretending to be a child in order to trap the people sharing child pornography online. He takes his findings before Congress, becoming a vocal advocate for online chat room reform in the mid-‘90s (at a time when hardly anyone understood what the Internet was) embarking on a life-changing campaign of activism.
Inspiring, brave and utterly compelling, Call Me Lucky is a real, hard-lived portrait of one of comedy’s most enigmatic figures. What makes the film so special is that it is excruciating honest. Crimmins willingness to speak of his abuse and confront the pain of his past is incredibly brave and Crimmins confronts it with steely determination. Crimmins perceives himself as a survivalist in an unforgiving world (hence the title Call Me Lucky) but he also is a truth-teller, an activist and a warrior for the voiceless. The kind of man of which the world needs more of.
While Call Me Lucky is a wonderful piece of documentary filmmaking, the emotionally draining subject matter makes difficult at times to watch. The scene Crimmins revisits the basement where he was raped is almost too excruciating to watch and the extensive use of interview clips and decaying video footage makes it better suited to the small screen.
Call Me Lucky is released in the US on 7 August, 2015
This review was originally written for ScreenRelish