Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story

Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story

Film review by: Witney Seibold

Eddie Izzard

Anyone who has seen Eddie Izzard’s standup will likely remember him. He’s the very, very British bloke wearing a frock and makeup, quietly ranting, almost off-the-cuff, about small things like beekeeping, groceries, and the British Empire. Sarah Towsend’s “Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story” encapsulates the man’s life in an intelligible and fascinating way. It does tend, mind you, to stray into aggrandizement at times (during which you may begin to question the need for an Izzard doc in the first place), and has some cutesy animations that it would have done better without, but manages to capture Izzard’s creative process, and , more importantly, his decades-long struggle into the spotlight.

Izzard did not come to his fame easily. He tried and tried and tried again. A lot of his stuff wasn’t funny. He went to several school, and entered comedy contests and festivals and lost them all (one year was to Fry & Laurie, Tony Slattery, and Emma Thompson, so I guess that couldn’t be helped). He took to performing slapstick bits in public squares on a unicycle. He tried high-concept public theater, like a condensed, outdoor version of “Ben-Hur.” That sounds funny, but Izzard claims it wasn’t.

Izzard’s childhood was spent at boarding school, military academies, and traveling about (he lived in Yemen and Belfast, amongst others). His mother died of cancer when he was 6 years old, which is probably the worst age at which to lose your mother. Not that there’s really a good age for it. He was not angsty or dissatisfied, but he was bored by his surroundings, preferring nightclubs and roadwork over his small hometown.

No biographical documentary would be complete without at least one revelatory moment, and we get a rather private one with Eddie, where, weeping, he talks about his need to impress his lost mother with his performing.

Any fan of Eddie Izzard will need to see this film. Not that it provides a key to his soul, but it does remind people how rare an “overnight success” really is. This film should be devoted to hardworking comedians everywhere, and should serve as a reminder that for every 100 goofy street performers you see, there are 100 dreams of fame. And, just maybe, there is one who will achieve that fame, and become one of the decade’s most beloved and idiosyncratic comedians.

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Published in: on October 12, 2009 at 3:29 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I would love to see this, as I do not get to see much other of this brilliant man than mere clips on YouTube 😦
    He is a national treasure who is severely underrated as an actor and mostly as an exceptional human being.


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