R | 1h30min | Documentary, Biography, Movie Historical past | 2 December 2022 (USA)
Robert Downey Sr. and Jr. are one of many only a few parent-child combos working throughout the arts the place the youthful ended up turning into way more profitable and well-known than the elder. Within the documentary “Sr.,” father and son discuss with (and deal with) one another as “Sr.” and “Jr.,” which exhibits that Jr. is keenly conscious he in all probability wouldn’t be the place he’s with having a (semi) well-known mother or father. Conversely, Sr. couldn’t be prouder or happier that his son eclipsed him professionally.
Robert Downey Jr. has produced a documentary about his father: “Sr.” (Netflix)
The immense bond between the 2 males displayed all through the movie solely strengthens because it progresses and gives up a scenario all of us would like to have if we solely had the free time and funds to take action.
Jr. conceived the premise of the film in 2019, not lengthy after Sr. was recognized with Parkinson’s illness. As somebody who misplaced a mother or father to this particularly merciless ailment, I can state that it has no expiration or finish date. For my mother, it was 20 years; for Sr., it was far much less.
Correctly, Jr. didn’t try to direct “Sr.,” however as a substitute he employed his pal Chris Smith, a man who has cranked out one very good, low-budget, high-concept movie after one other, largely escaping the discover of the lots, a lot in the identical method as Sr. did many years earlier.
From 1961 by means of 2005, Sr. directed 18 movies, none of which most mainstream film followers would doubtless acknowledge, though certainly one of them, “Putney Swope” (1969), was chosen in 2016 to be added to america Movie Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, traditionally, or aesthetically important.”
That’s not an achievement to be taken flippantly. Only a few movies make this specific grade.
Robert Downey Sr. (L) along with his son Robert Downey Jr. made movies between 1969 and 2005 as famous in “Sr.” (Netflix)
Offbeat and Quirky
“Sr.” performs out like, nicely, most of Sr.’s motion pictures. Shot in attractive black and white, the film (which lately gained the distinguished Nationwide Board of Evaluation Award for Greatest Documentary Function) initially doesn’t seem have any sort of set narrative in thoughts.
The primary 10 minutes—probably the most essential in any film—are introduced as seemingly random, haphazard, repetitive, and missing context. Given the completed product is barely 90 minutes lengthy, this looks as if a harmful waste of time.
The majority of Sr.’s output have been guerilla, avant-garde affairs with none sort of conventional kind or construction, one thing Smith (and definitely in tandem with Jr.) wished to underscore and accent. The movie is all concerning the father (therefore the title) and little or no concerning the son. Moreover, no film starring Jr. launched after the late ’80s is even talked about. (Take that, Marvel followers!)
As soon as the film shifts into correct gear, the rewards to the viewer begin piling up. Smith mixes clips from Sr.’s again catalogue alongside interviews of his frequent performing performers, and commentary from these starting their careers at across the identical time (Norman Lear, Alan Arkin, Larry Wolf), and visiting outdated set places, all of them in New York.
One of many film’s many highlights embrace prolonged commentary from filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson (“There Will Be Blood,” “Licorice Pizza”) who cites Sr. as a serious affect, and forged him as a recording studio proprietor in “Boogie Nights.”
The manufacturing reaches its high-water narrative mark at concerning the halfway level, when father and son deal with their previous chemical dependancy points.
Starting in 1970 when Jr. made his performing debut on the age of 5 in his father’s movie “Pound,” he grew to become a fixture on future units the place drug and alcohol use was rampant. Not solely did Sr. and his first spouse (additionally Jr.’s mom) Elsie Ann Ford fail to protect their son from these substances, they gave them to him.
After a promising stretch within the Nineteen Eighties and Nineteen Nineties, Jr.’s demons bought one of the best of him, his profession tail-spun; he spent the ultimate 5 years of the twentieth century both in rehab or in jail on a large number of fees.
Robert Downey Sr. (L) and Robert Downey Jr. focus on their relationship in “Sr.” (Netflix)
Whereas Jr. states this could have occurred with or with out his dad and mom’ prompting, Sr. continues to be sure he was the trigger and by no means forgave himself for it.
Documenting all of this soul-bearing in entrance of cameras for posterity’s sake is clearly cathartic and cleaning for each males, however it feels greater than a tad calculating. Alternatively, it’s refreshing to witness well-known members of the family being totally clear and sincere whereas refusing to verbally assault one another.
In some ways, “Sr.” follows the identical blueprint of lots of his movies: Begin with an thought and simply see the place it goes. It’s a novel strategy to strategy a documentary and it’s straightforward to know why it’s profitable so many individuals over. However for many who want order and focus, it performs out disjointed and never absolutely realized.
Robert Downey Sr. (L) and Robert Downey Jr. are clear and sincere in “Sr.” (Netflix)
Director: Chris Smith
Working Time: 1 hour, 29 minutes
MPAA Ranking: R
Launch Date: Dec. 2, 2022
Ranking: 3 out of 5
Initially from Washington, D.C., Michael Clark has supplied movie content material to over 30 print and on-line media retailers. He co-founded the Atlanta Movie Critics Circle in 2017 and is a weekly contributor to the Shannon Burke Present on FloridaManRadio.com. Since 1995, Mr. Clark has written over 4,000 film opinions and film-related articles. He favors darkish comedy, thrillers, and documentaries.