Overview: Written and directed by her son, Jacob Bernstein, Everything Is Copy – Nora Ephron: Scripted & Unscripted tracks Nora Ephron’s rise from the mailroom of Newsweek to a notable stint reporting for the New York Post, where she caught the eye of influential editors like Harold Hayes, Clay Felker and Helen Gurley Brown. Marked by biting honesty and intelligent humor, her incisive writing soon began appearing regularly in Esquire, New York Magazine, the New York Times and Cosmopolitan, winning devoted fans and foes alike. No one – including her parents, her former bosses, or, most famously, her spouses – was safe in her work.
The documentary features intimate interviews with many of the people closest to her, including her three sisters, Delia, Amy and Hallie Ephron, along with writers such as Gay Talese and Marie Brenner and film industry colleagues, among them Tom Hanks, Rob Reiner, Meg Ryan, Steven Spielberg and Meryl Streep. The film provides insights from childhood schoolmates and close colleagues from the entertainment industry and journalism, including David Remnick, Richard Cohen, Barry Diller, Bryan Lourd, Lynda Obst, Amy Pascal, Barbara Walters and George C. Wolfe, as well as illuminating interviews with Dick Cavett and Charlie Rose.
Additionally, Ephron’s funny, probing essays are brought to life in dramatic readings by actresses Lena Dunham, Gaby Hoffman, Reese Witherspoon, Rita Wilson and Meg Ryan, all of whom regarded Ephron as a pioneer, mentor and friend. Bernstein explores the line between professional ambition and personal loyalties, turning the camera on his own family to gain perspective. He seeks insights from his three aunts and sits down for a frank interview with his father, Carl Bernstein. He also paints a moving picture of Ephron’s third marriage to writer Nicholas Pileggi, a lasting relationship that fulfilled and nourished her.
This film reveals a smart, feisty woman unafraid to speak her mind as she juggled family with career and shape-shifted over time, morphing from cub reporter to gimlet-eyed critic to accomplished filmmaker, playwright and blogger.
Expectations: It is a film made by a loved one (her son) constructing the life so all of us could understand Nora Ephron. It will feature all the bits that make up a biographical documentary: footage & stills, articles & news and testimonials. It all depends on how they are edited together that is going to make or break the film. I’m starting pretty much from scratch in regards to the title subject so I’ll see where it takes me.
As I think about watching EVERYTHING IS COPY I think back to the other two celebrity bios we had which were MAVIS! and BECOMING MIKE NICHOLS. Comparing and contrasting them will add some extra thoughts as I view the story of Nora Ephron. To settle into it all here is the trailer.
Gut Reaction: I must readily admit that I was not up on Nora Ephron. I even had to look up her filmography. I’ve seen and liked Silkwood. I don’t do rom-coms so out of those I saw only When Harry Met Sally & Sleepless In Seattle and they didn’t leave much of an impression and I never read a single word of any essay or book by her, so just who she was and what valued contributions she gave us was lost on me. But clearly so was a noted celebrity in certain circles and of course meant something to family. Her son, Jacob Bernstein, did do a thorough job in his first documentary to tell the complete story of her life & career.
He broke up the usual format of the “talking heads” offering testimonials of and anecdotes about her with some readings from her work. But the big important moments were the ones spent with Nora’s siblings, agent and ex-husband. Her former spouse, Jacob’s father, was Carl Bernstein the Watergate whistleblower. Woven heavily into the documentary they offered, as you’d expect they would, the most in-depth reflections and observances to be had about Nora Ephron.
However, with all that, I sort of liked the style used in BECOMING MIKE NICHOLS better than the format used here. Though there were plenty of archived clips and sound bites from Nora utilized they didn’t really make me understand her at all. With Mr. Nichols his films were interviews with him as he reflected back on his life & career. I find that far more effective than just having other people reminiscing about the person after that person is deceased. The snippets we have of Nora are her living the moment and selling her brand more than candid reflections on a life. It would have also been more clarifying if the documentary camera followed the subject around to capture at work as was the style of MAVIS!. Of course, you can’t fault anyone if the film was made after Ephron’s death. It still was a cohesive story.
It is always interesting when a film looks at a tough person and I gather from EVERYTHING IS COPY that Nora fit that description. She wanted to be in control; what she did, at least for me, is come across as a bit haughty and snotty. That is even reflected in the family motto and in the documentary’s title. “Everything is Copy” says everything about my life is worthy of turning into a story and I’m going to in my own way and Ephron did just that. She did that up until the end of her life when her illness and dying days were played down and that element is well discussed in the film.
All in all you end up with the complete story of the lady that left a mark on her family, co-workers and the industry.
In Conclusion: EVERYTHING IS COPY would certainly hold more impact if you were an appreciative fan or her wit, her words and her films. I had to treat this as more of an introduction to her. She clearly came across as a strong, determined, prolific and assertive presence in the industry. Her tone and take on matters, however, just wasn’t for me. It should hold as a good testimony to her for those who ate up her “copy” and respected her energy.
Next: ONLY THE DEAD SEE THE END OF WAR in which war correspondent Michael Ware gives an account on his witnessing the birth of ISIS and more from the war front. It debuts 03.28.16 at 9:00pm.
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