LIFE OF REILLY (Barry Poltermann, Frank Anderson, U.S.). 89 minutes. Saturday (May 19), 4:45 pm, Isabel Bader. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Perennial 70s game show contestant Charles Nelson Reilly (of the sailor outfits, toupees and sexual innuendo) was one of the few out gay men in the notoriously straight pre-Will & Grace world of TV. This disappointing doc is essentially a taping of his autobiographical solo show, which recounts his misfit Bronx childhood, his troubled family (racist mom, alcoholic dad, lobotomized aunt) and his rise in the entertainment world from theatre usher to Uta Hagen student to Broadway trouper.
There are some funny anecdotes, like the time he surprised a snobby guest on The Tonight Show by reciting Shakespeare, and not-so-funny ones, like his talk with a TV exec who said, "They don't let queers on television." And who knew the king of camp was bosom buddies with Burt Reynolds?
Directors Barry Poltermann and Frank Anderson rarely venture beyond the theatre performance to punch up Reilly's story and show us things rather than letting the actor tell us. A missed opportunity.