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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Live life. That's how Roger Ebert approached every day, and this film reveals his immense appreciation for experiencing everything he could. That includes the positive (great films, great friends, new experiences) and the negative (mediocre movies, overindulging, and occasional bouts of bickering with people he loved).
Positive Role Models
Despite a debilitating illness that took away Ebert's ability to eat or speak, he always had a positive attitude and a glint in his eyes. Though he lost control of his jaw, it's entirely fitting that it seemed like his mouth was always smiling. This was a man who appreciated life and enjoyed every moment.
Violence & Scariness
Some scenes show intense bickering between two very close friends.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A few sequences include clips from old films that show brief nudity and sex scenes. Some references to sex.
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Occasional swearing, including "s--t," "f--k," and "goddamn."
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Products & Purchases
The film frequently mentions the two Chicago newspapers where Siskel and Ebert worked, the Tribune and the Sun-Times, as well as their famous film-review TV show. Many movies, actors, and directors are mentioned by name. Ebert uses a Mac laptop toward the end of his life.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
For many years, Ebert spent almost every night holding court in a Chicago bar, and almost all of his friends have tales of his antics. Later, he realized he had a drinking problem and quit, and the same friends tell more stories about how he managed to get sober and how important it was for him to realize that he needed to stop drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Life Itself is a documentary by the director of Hoop Dreams that examines life of acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert, who died in 2013. It traces both his career -- both as a newspaper critic and on his popular TV show with Gene Siskel -- and his personal life, including his late-in-life marriage and the impact of the debilitating disease that robbed him of his ability to speak and eat but not think and write. Expect some brief swearing ("s--t," "f--k," etc.), a few quick nude/sex scenes in clips of old movies, and a good deal of talk about drinking and Ebert's eventual realization that he had an alcohol problem. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Life Itself is a beautiful documentary that befits a man as complex, intelligent, and compassionate as Roger Ebert. As with many biographical films, viewers get to know the writer from childhood on -- born in a small Illinois town, dad was an electrician, mom was a homemaker, always wanted to be a journalist. But that's just the beginning; as the film goes on, Ebert's portrait (which he narrates himself in spots) gains texture not just through the many interviews with friends who share memories of a man with an deep yearning to experience as much as he could -- and demanded the same from the art he reviewed -- but time with Ebert himself, who remains eloquent even when cancer has made it impossible for him to speak.
No matter the impact of his disease, he still had his words on paper, and with these, Ebert never stopped sharing his wisdom. Some people might have sunk into bitterness and despair, but Life Itself shows that Ebert remained optimistic and joyful. He had no qualms about showing his face, even after surgery left him visibly disfigured. It's easy for a film to show what a man accomplished. Life Itself excels by showing us who the man really was. As Ebert himself says in a clip from the first few minutes of the film, "The movies are like a machine that generates empathy." Life Itself, as part of that machinery, succeeds.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.