Review: Love, Gilda will break your goddamn heart

Documentary about Gilda Radner’s short life and brilliant career illuminates a magnificent talent

LOVE, GILDA (Lisa D’Apolito). 87 minutes. Opens Friday (September 21). See listing. Rating: NNNN

In a lot of ways, Love, Gilda follows the standard celebrity biopic template from humble beginning to tragic end. But because it’s about Gilda Radner, that template illuminates a magnificent talent.

Narrated by Radner herself (via the audiobook of her autobiography, It’s Always Something), with latter-day Saturday Night Live cast members like Amy Poehler, Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph reading from her letters and notebooks, it’s a chronological look at the comedian’s short life and brilliant career, filled with celebrity guests and compelling anecdotes.

Love, Gilda summarizes Radner’s entire life, starting with her subject’s upper-middle-class childhood in Detroit – concerned about her weight, her mother put Radner on Dexedrine at the age of 10, sparking a lifetime of food and health issues – and rolling through her time in Toronto, her incandescent SNL run, her subsequent movie career and relationship with Gene Wilder – a love story that ended far too soon. (Radner died of ovarian cancer in 1989.)

Director Lisa D’Apolito does a fine job of coordinating the material and letting Radner speak for herself, confronting her body and health issues respectfully but not delicately. And as the end draws near, the film is honest about that too, with home videos of Radner and Wilder that’ll break your goddamn heart. | @normwilner

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