Literary provocateur, political gadfly on the left, Hollywood screenwriter, and novelist of essays, historical fiction, and campy satire, Gore Vidal gleefully embodied that endangered species, the American public intellectual. Fortunately for us, and for this outstanding documentary, he spent his life in front of the camera: there he is at age ten in a newsreel with his father, a Roosevelt insider…there he is as a handsome young writer in the Camelot era, caught by paparazzi with Jack Kennedy, Tennessee Williams, Paul Newman…there he is in 1968, a harsh critic of the Vietnam War, in his infamous television debates with William F. Buckley, Jr. (who calls Vidal a “queer” and threatens to punch him).
Nicholas Wrathall’s entertaining and appreciative profile takes full advantage of Vidal’s ubiquity and his famously fierce wit to paint a vivid portrait of the patrician writer who never hesitated to blast American political corruption and imperial hubris. Featuring a series of candid interviews toward the end of his life, and peppered with observations (not always friendly) from Christopher Hitchens, David Mamet, Norman Mailer, and Mikhail Gorbachev, the film shows just how prescient many of Vidal’s views were about American political and social ills, and even manages to pull back the curtain a bit on his internal life—which despite his very public homosexuality he kept largely cloaked. Even now, Gore Vidal fascinates.
— PETER L. STEIN
AT&T Audience Award Text Voting Code: D312