There's a bit of just about everyone in Anne Lamott. She's a born-again Christian, a writer, an iconoclast, a single mother, a recovering alcoholic, a former drug addict, a nursing home minister, a comedienne, a liberal, a neurotic girl, a sinner, a saint, a gay-rights activist, a Sunday school teacher, and a dreadlocked peace marcher.
If you're one of the above, Lamott is likely to raise your spirits in Bird by Bird with Annie. The 40-minute documentary, airing Tuesday night on PBS, flatters its subject by allowing her to narrate her own story. She does it casually, openly, hilariously. Indeed, the device works so well that you forgive the absence of an outsider's commentary and willingly let her do the talking.
The film is a win-win for Lamott. If you already relish the wit and candor that animate her bestselling collection of essays Traveling Mercies and her columns at Salon.com, you'll love her more after you see the documentary. And if you can't stand Lamott—perhaps for the cheap shots and liberal pandering that are routinely featured in her shtick, such as her gratuitous comparison of George W. Bush to a Klansman in a recent column, or for her bigotry against white Southern males in general—you might at least find yourself understanding her a little better. And, no matter how much you fight it, she'll get a belly laugh or two out of you.
The camera follows Lamott everywhere, and Academy Award-winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock makes you feel like you do, too. You see Lamott working with writing students; you see her in a photograph as a girl with hair so unmanageable that she got teased for it in what she calls "drive-by shoutings;" you see her singing gospel songs at her church, driving a convertible in the Bay Area, ...1
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