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Something Left to be Said About This Fine Documentary
(RATING: ☆☆☆☆ out of 5)
THIS FILM IS RECOMMENDED.
IN BRIEF: A well made documentary that has enough style and flair to hide a few deficiencies.
SYNOPSIS: A up-close look into the relationship of a well known mother and her equally famous son.
Newscaster Anderson Cooper produced this documentary as a means to connect more openly with his mother. Their atypical lives are on full display and while the film may want to express a candid view into the Vanderbilt family and their past, it does not go into much depth about Mr. Cooper's private life and sexuality, his mother's digressions, or her estrangement from one of her sons, Chris, from another marriage. Some areas are still taboo in this supposedly tell-all biography, but there is still plenty of footage and facts that remain fascinating and of historical interest.
￼Ms. Gloria Vanderbilt is now 91 years of age and her tumultuous life is shown from her "poor little rich girl" beginnings and the "trial of the century" child custody case through her three failed marriages including rocky relationships with Frank Sinatra and Sidney Lumet, to her successful sojourn into the world of fashion, art, and business. Less time is spent on Mr. Cooper and his own personal rise as a photo journalist and reporter, including his private gay life and his deliberate break with the family to achieve his own fame and fortune, an aspect that would have made the film more involving and honest.
Director Liz Garbus uses many imaginative ways to create a video scrapbook of the family's mercurial events by incorporating Ms. Vanderbilt's colorful art with archival footage that explains the many detours and obstacles in her life. The film is expertly assembled, with strong photography by Tom Hurwitz and skillful editing by Karen Sim, to help portray the various events that cover nearly a century of American history. Interviews with family members and friends add other points of view, although the film rarely shows any negative treatment of either Mr. Cooper or his mother.
The film focuses on little Gloria origins starting with the sudden death of her father and the abandonment of her court-designated "unfit" mother. Her life led her to rebellion and an abusive marriage at the age of seventeen. Other marriages failed including her relationship with famed conductor Leopold Stokowski, who was 40 years her senior. She dabbled in acting, modeling, and painting along her journey before finding true love with a Hollywood screenwriter, Wyatt Cooper, and giving birth to two sons, Carter (who committed suicide at the age of 22, as his mother watched helplessly) and his younger brother, Anderson.
The film is stylishly done, using popular music to help define certain eras. The images are uniformly strong, although some of the interviews between mother and son seem a tad rehearsed, purposely avoiding some topics. Certain scenes dwell on tragedy, such as the sudden death of Gloria's devoted husband and a staged visit to her dead son's grave-site. These segments are poignant but manipulative as well.
￼Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper is an intriguing look at this wealthy heiress and self-made business tycoon, even if some important details are missing. Perhaps, Ms. Vanderbilt's own words can sum up this woman succinctly: "I have inside me the image of a rock-hard diamond that nothing can get at, and nothing can crack, and I've always known that about myself." Her hard outer shell protects a fragile beauty that continues to shine. So does her film.
￼NOTE: The film is now showing on HBO and CNN. It was recently in competition at the Sundance Festival.
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