It's almost impossible to overrate the influence of Saturday Night Live on television comedy, on television in general, on comedy in general, and even on American culture. The show premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975, under the original title "NBC's Saturday Night".
During its 45 seasons on the air, it has launched the careers of an absurd number of performers that have gone on to rule comedy in America. The list includes: Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi, Dana Carvey, Chevy Chase, Billy Crystal, Jane Curtin, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Farley, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Al Franken, Bill Hader, Darrell Hammond, Phil Hartman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jon Lovitz, Norm Macdonald, Kate McKinnon, Seth Meyers, Dennis Miller, Tracy Morgan, Garrett Morris, Eddie Murphy, Billy Murray, Mike Myers, Kevin Nealon, Laraine Newman, Joe Piscopo, Amy Poehler, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, Molly Shannon, Harry Shearer, Martin Short, Sarah Silverman, David Spade, Ben Stiller, Damon Wayans, Kristen Wigg, and of course, Gilda Radner.
"Love, Gilda," Lisa D'Apolito's love letter to Gilda Radner, fawns over Gilda's talents and personality, and yet doesn't feel even a bit over-the-top or phony. In an interview a few years ago, Bill Murray said he was in love with Gilda and that every man whoever met her fell in love with her. This film is just more evidence of the same.
Like many biopics, "Love, Gilda" contains lots of interviews with those who worked with her, and later alumni of SNL reading notes that Gilda wrote. All of the people reading seem both reverent and filled with childish enthusiasm towards Gilda. Oddly, most of her surviving cast-mates are missing from the doc, which I found to be a bit strange.
While looking at photos of Gilda as a child, we learn from her friends and relatives that she was always trying to make people laugh. Part of it is a response to her being overweight as a child. She learns that if she can make the potential bullies laugh before the abuse begins, she'll get by with minimal damage.
When she was 26, she was dating Martin Short, who was 22 at the time. Soon, she was working at Second City, where she received a phone call from John Belushi, offering her a spot with the National Lampoon's "Lemmings" group. Then came SNL, and she was the first one hired by SNL's creator, Lorne Michaels. Fame quickly followed.
Gilda died at the age of 42 from ovarian cancer, and while the doc certainly covers it, and it's no doubt tragic, somehow unabashed joy dominates "Love, Gilda", and I'm glad it does. Like everyone else, you, too, will probably fall in love with Gilda while watching this film. I know that I had a smile plastered onto my face almost the entire time.