Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Saint Misbehavin': The Wavy Gravy Movie

A much better movie than its off-putting title would suggest, Saint Misbehavin’: The Wavy Gravy Movie will introduce many to a singularly altruistic individual.

Dec 8, 2010

-By Eric Monder


filmjournal/photos/stylus/158130-Saint_Misbehavin_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Michelle Esrick’s documentary Saint Misbehavin’: The Wavy Gravy Movie is as informal as its bon-vivant subject, Wavy Gravy, a poet-philosopher, peace activist, prankster-clown, hog farmer and hippie icon (among other things). Fans of the man (a.k.a. Hugh Romney) will rush to this one. Others will be more cautious. If only the name of the movie were less annoying!

A kind of Zelig of the New York bohemian set, Romney seems to have been “at the revolution” and every other important event of the last five decades. In Esrick’s film, we learn that Romney (age 72 when filming took place) started out as a Greenwich Village comic-turned-poet-in-arms (with Bob Dylan) before joining the “beat” crowd and journeying to L.A. on LSD with Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters (as described by Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test). Later, he protested against the Vietnam War, organized music concerts, emceed at Woodstock (no less), and visited Nepal to eradicate smallpox. In between, he ran a prized pig for President, then “Nobody” for President.

Esrick focuses primarily on Romney’s more recent endeavors, including his creation (with wife Jahanara) of a commune-cum-hog farm in Berkeley to help feed the poor and a current mission to teach circus and clown tricks to underprivileged youth.

Esrick tries to make artful collages out of some photos, but Saint Misbehavin’ is more engaging when it moves away from Romney’s own art (he just isn’t that good, whether singing or joking or designing) and takes its cheerful trip down memory lane with its infectious if abrasive guide. We see archival and home-movie footage and stills that remind us that there really was a time when the country wasn’t quite as cynical. The interviews with friends and colleagues are not terribly illuminating, but it is nice to see folks like Bonnie Raitt, Ram Dass, Jackson Browne, Buffy Sainte-Marie and other counterculture performers and thinkers.

Best of all, I suppose, is that Romney’s humanism is a constant through it all—a great example of how to remain unflappable in the face of attacks. (Running the commune leads the Romneys to be branded as communists.) It is hard to argue with someone doing (or trying to do) so many benevolent things for so many needy people. Whether or not that person deserves a fawning cinematic tribute is questionable, but Saint Misbehavin’ is a lively one—with a history lesson thrown in for good measure.


Film Review: Saint Misbehavin': The Wavy Gravy Movie

A much better movie than its off-putting title would suggest, Saint Misbehavin’: The Wavy Gravy Movie will introduce many to a singularly altruistic individual.

Dec 8, 2010

-By Eric Monder


filmjournal/photos/stylus/158130-Saint_Misbehavin_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Michelle Esrick’s documentary Saint Misbehavin’: The Wavy Gravy Movie is as informal as its bon-vivant subject, Wavy Gravy, a poet-philosopher, peace activist, prankster-clown, hog farmer and hippie icon (among other things). Fans of the man (a.k.a. Hugh Romney) will rush to this one. Others will be more cautious. If only the name of the movie were less annoying!

A kind of Zelig of the New York bohemian set, Romney seems to have been “at the revolution” and every other important event of the last five decades. In Esrick’s film, we learn that Romney (age 72 when filming took place) started out as a Greenwich Village comic-turned-poet-in-arms (with Bob Dylan) before joining the “beat” crowd and journeying to L.A. on LSD with Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters (as described by Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test). Later, he protested against the Vietnam War, organized music concerts, emceed at Woodstock (no less), and visited Nepal to eradicate smallpox. In between, he ran a prized pig for President, then “Nobody” for President.

Esrick focuses primarily on Romney’s more recent endeavors, including his creation (with wife Jahanara) of a commune-cum-hog farm in Berkeley to help feed the poor and a current mission to teach circus and clown tricks to underprivileged youth.

Esrick tries to make artful collages out of some photos, but Saint Misbehavin’ is more engaging when it moves away from Romney’s own art (he just isn’t that good, whether singing or joking or designing) and takes its cheerful trip down memory lane with its infectious if abrasive guide. We see archival and home-movie footage and stills that remind us that there really was a time when the country wasn’t quite as cynical. The interviews with friends and colleagues are not terribly illuminating, but it is nice to see folks like Bonnie Raitt, Ram Dass, Jackson Browne, Buffy Sainte-Marie and other counterculture performers and thinkers.

Best of all, I suppose, is that Romney’s humanism is a constant through it all—a great example of how to remain unflappable in the face of attacks. (Running the commune leads the Romneys to be branded as communists.) It is hard to argue with someone doing (or trying to do) so many benevolent things for so many needy people. Whether or not that person deserves a fawning cinematic tribute is questionable, but Saint Misbehavin’ is a lively one—with a history lesson thrown in for good measure.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Momo
Film Review: Letter to Momo

Literally beset by goblins, this strained animated effort should have concentrated on the human elements of its story rather than the supernatural. More »

A Master Builder
Film Review: A Master Builder

A personal project which should have stayed personal, this turgid yet flat Ibsen adaptation is third-time unlucky for Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory. More »

Fanny
Film Review: Fanny

"Classic" is a word all too casually bandied about, but for Daniel Auteuil's screen adaptation of this beloved French trilogy it is completely apropos. More »

Alive Inside
Film Review: Alive Inside

Incredibly moving and powerful documentary about combatting Alzheimer's with music. Without the use of a single CGI effect, you see literal miracles happening here. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Sex Tape review
Film Review: Sex Tape

Couple's homemade porn circulates on the web in an R-rated comedy that wastes the talents of its stars. More »

The Purge: Anarchy
Film Review: The Purge: Anarchy

A modest but noticeable improvement on its predecessor, The Purge: Anarchy offers a more effective—if still far from ideal—realization of the series' killer premise. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here