Judd Apatow presents an emotional two-part in-depth look at the life, career and complex internal struggles of his loving mentor, the influential stand-up comedian and actor Garry Shandling, based on Shandling's personal diaries.
The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling continues the subject's undying search for truth
The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling is an invitation into the mind and heart of one of the most innovative and brilliant comedians to ever live.
Whether you know Garry Shandling from his standup comedy, his brilliant masterpiece in deconstruction, It's Garry Shandling's Show, his groundbreaking examination of ego and interpersonal relationships, The Larry Sanders Show, or even if you don't know of Garry Shandling at all, the documentary detailing the life and rise of the comic is essential viewing for the human experience. As the title would suggest, The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling shares entries from Shandling's personal journals, in his own handwriting, accentuated by his constant search for truth often pursued through meditation and reflection. This documentary provides a fascinating glimpse into the complicated private thoughts of a most human and restless individual. Shandling seemed to never be truly satisfied, even at the peak of his career, because there were still so many questions left unanswered. For those who exist on a higher plane, like Garry did, peaks are often only seen as the precursor to life's valleys and a reminder that happiness doesn't last forever. The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, directed and produced by Judd Apatow who calls Garry "(for 25 years) the most important mentor that I had", lovingly highlights Garry's comedy brilliance, his deep introspective mind, and the demons that plagued him through all of it. Unlike many documentaries about a subject who has passed away, Apatow never paints Shandling as a perfect individual, but rather, details Shandling's highs and lows while seeming to bridge together fragments of each to make a whole yet prematurely-ended picture of a life. The loving detail and care Apatow has clearly put into this exceptional tribute to his friend and mentor is a gift to each person in the audience. He illustrates how true Garry was to his path and allows his quest to be an inspiration to the millions of people who were never fortunate enough to know him. In the documentary's trailer, Apatow voices that, despite being close to him, Shandling was also a mystery to him. Throughout the documentary, Apatow seems to be searching, just as Garry was searching, to gain a deeper insight into the enigma that Garry Shandling was. The result is an incredibly moving tribute and an immensely illuminating experience.
Presenting unbelievable access to Garry Shandling's early life complete with pictures and videos from his childhood and adolescence the audience learns how deeply impacted Garry was by the death of his 13-year-old brother Barry from cystic fibrosis. Never having a "goodbye" moment or even being allowed to attend his brother's funeral seemed to have left Garry scarred with a pain never attended to, and a fractured sense of trust that seemed to suggest to him that everyone he loved would be gone eventually. Following his brother's death, Garry's mother overcompensated her love and affection toward her living son, smothering Garry and seeming to instill in him an insurmountable internalized pressure and a deeply-rooted sense of guilt. By evaluating such aspects of himself, both through his journals and his comedy, Garry was searching for answers to the human condition and helping others understand that life is much the same as his vision of The Larry Sanders Show "people trying to get love, and shit gets in the way."
Watching The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling allows one to realize, through Garry's humor and being, that we're not as alone in the world as we thought. At our cores, we all want to be our true selves, and often don't know, or never find out, how to live truth. The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling teaches us Garry's method, one that can be adopted by anyone, that staying true to yourself, trusting your instincts, and being your true self, are the closest we can ever come to truth and happiness. Hearing Garry's voice and seeing his handwritten words onscreen was a brilliantly powerful decision to bring the audience into Garry's experience. We are not simply invited to view a Garry Shandling photo album, but rather to be immersed in his life and his journey. Just as he was in life, never letting things linger on the surface level and always striving for a deeper truth, Judd Apatow continues Garry's search for truth after his death with the brilliantly reflective The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling.
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