Looking for Lenny (2011) Poster

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Interesting but flawed.
CurtHerzstark14 March 2012
What is freedom of speech and how far can we go, pushing the envelope? These and many other questions is what director Elan Gale is trying to discuss and at same time do an documentary about Lenny Bruce. Unfortunately he fails at both mainly because of lack of focus, and also because others have done it better in the genre of documentaries.

Elan Gale gives hardly any info about the man, Lenny Bruce, nor does he explain what really drove Bruce to become one of the most beloved(and controversial) comics of our time.

When looking at other documentaries about controversial comedians like Bill Hicks (see American: The Bill Hicks Story 2009)we got a better understanding of the man and his legacy.

In Looking for Lenny (2011)we understand his importance but it is somewhat confusing exactly what he did and why he did it. We get lots of funny anecdotes but not many are relevant to what the film is trying to discuss.

When it comes to the discussion of freedom of speech the film fails to deliver again, since there are more interesting, nuanced documentaries about the subject. For example: Fück (2005), Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech (2009)and also above mentioned American: The Bill Hicks Story (2009)

But as an introduction to Lenny Bruce's comedy and legacy it is OK, and the following discussion about freedom of speech, political correctness etc this film serves it's purpose.

However, it should been so much better. Ironically, while trying to write this review, IMDb would not let me use the proper title for one of my film suggestions....which makes this films subject and other films like it so very important.
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Uneven but Worth Watching
Michael_Elliott15 August 2012
Looking for Lenny (2011)

*** (out of 4)

Richard Lewis, Robin Williams, Roseanne, Christopher Titus, Kitty Bruce, Phyliss Diller, Elon Gold, Jonathan Winters, Hugh Hefner, Lewis Black, Jon Lovitz, Henry Rollins and Lisa Lampanelli are just a few of the famous names who show up in this documentary that takes a look at the controversial comic Lenny Bruce. For the most part this is an entertaining documentary but it is rather shocking to think how important Bruce was yet there really hasn't been too much done on him. The interviews here are all pretty good as the current group of comedians talk about what Bruce did for their profession while we also get interviews from those who knew and worked with Bruce and they're able to shine some light on his life. The documentary spends most of its time on Bruce dealing with the various controversial subjects including race and religion. We get several clips from Bruce appearing on The Steven Allen Show and there's also some audio recordings of his concerts. Also, we get to see some newspaper articles about the various times he was arrested and taken to court on obscenity charges. The documentary uses Bruce's message to speak out against political correctness and this is where the thing gets a tad bit uneven because Michael Richards and Don Imus are discussed and what their rants meant to what Bruce was fighting for. I personally would have preferred more talk about Bruce because there's really very little that we get to know about him outside of the controversy and of course his early death. Another strange thing is that the 70-minute documentary "ends" at the 55-minute mark when the credits start to roll but for some reason the movie then goes on another fifteen-minutes with more interviews. The entire time the credits are rolling at a very, very slow pace, which gets quite annoying after a while. Still, this is a fairly interesting documentary that's still worth viewing if you're a fan of Bruce or just want to hear some of his life story.
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Still looking.
jc-osms6 July 2012
I admit to knowing very little about Lenny Bruce's life and work, indeed I haven't even seen the Dustin Hoffman bio-pic from the 70's but being aware to some extent of his status as a comedian and his courting of controversy especially in the 60's, I was intrigued to watch this hour-long documentary.

I wasn't quite expecting the tangential diversions into the discussions on free-speech as the programme took in a couple of recent examples of censorship, which in fact i would argue are little known outside the States, presumably seeing in them a link to Bruce's pioneering comedy although I'm not sure he'd be completely comfortable with the godfather of shock-jock title conferred on him here. I also think the film uses too many interviewees, reducing their contributions to sound-bite status and while some do make pertinent points, too many just repeat the same old "Lenny died for our (future) sins", plus I just plain hadn't heard of many of them and so struggled to put their remarks in context.

I would have been happier to have learned more about Bruce's personal life and evolution as a human being, as well as a public-facing comedian and while it was bold to try and impart this dichotomy into the narrative, I felt this was two programmes in one, with Bruce's example being used more to back up the director's own agenda on free speech in latter-day America.

Perhaps there want enough archive footage of Bruce to carry a full documentary focused on him, but surely more could have been done to integrate his recordings and reminiscences of his immediate family (particularly his articulate daughter), friends and contemporaries rather than some of the fairly blatant hero-worship we get here.

This show did leave me wanting to find out more about this darkly complex man but the fact that it didn't satisfy my curiosity within its own confines was surely a missed opportunity.
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Spotty but worth a watch
arfdawg-13 August 2014
Looking for Lenny is an in-depth, controversial documentary that uses Lenny Bruce's legacy to explore the present condition of the fear of words and expression.

It also tackles the issue of new limitations that the government and society are placing upon freedom of expression in the artistic and political discourse.

It speaks directly to recent attempts by political figures to instill fear into American society by labeling, manipulating, and inflaming people's fear of the spoken word.

If Bruce had a hard time fitting in to his time and place, he's survive even less today with al this ridiculous political correctness.

It's an OK doc. Not great but there are some neat clips that I've not seen before.
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Excellent film
CheshireCatsGrin4 August 2013
After watching this film for a second time, I still don't feel I've watched the same film as the other reviewers. Generally I'm more critical then other people that have viewed certain films. Not in this case.

This film discusses the influence of Lenny Bruce on the free speech as it pertains to comedy, and our reactions to it.

This film is never lost in what it wants to be. Élan Gale knows and he drives is from point A to point B until the credits finish running at the end. It's available on Netflix Streaming. It's definitely worth your hour and ten minutes.
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