“Public Speaking” Review
Fran Lebowitz, the writer and satirist best known for her essays published in the late 70s and early 80s, is resistant to change. “I do not have a cell phone. I do not have a blackberry. I don’t have a computer. I don’t have a microwave oven. All of which seem like the same thing to me,” she tells Martin Scorsese in his film “Public Speaking.” She is constantly reminiscing about the literary days of yore – before New York was “boring,” before everyone had a memoir to write. But somehow she hasn’t lost her edge – her zingers are just as piercing and relevant now as they were several decades ago.
“Public Speaking” isn’t exactly a profile. This is not a probing psychological inquiry. Lebowitz would not have the patience for such things. Instead, for just over 80 minutes, Scorsese captures Lebowitz doing her thing: talking with pal Toni Morrison, talking at the Waverly Inn, talking at event for college students. Talking is how Lebowitz spends most of her time these days. “I’m the most outstanding waster of time of my generation,” she says. She’s been working – and not working – on the same novel for thirty years and makes much of her living through speaking engagements. (“I’m the Willy Loman of literature,” she often says.) She’s performed at more college campuses than the Dave Matthews Band. When she’s not talking, she’s stalking around midtown in a boxy blazer silently hating the tourists, young parents, and other idiots around her.
She’s very good at talking, not least because she never tires of her own voice. She is wildly, almost impossibly, confident. “Here’s the problem with being ahead of your time, by the time everyone gets around to it, you’re bored.” She was blunt and unapologetic as a 27- year-old upstart, when her first book came out. (“Most of God’s children are, in fact, barely presentable,” she wrote at the time.) She’s 60 now and age, in her case, has only enabled her judgmental side. She feels authorized her to have the last word on, essentially, anything. Whatever the topic may be – gender, gay marriage, cigarettes – she nails it. And after 80 minutes all you want is for her to keep talking and talking and talking.
Public Speaking will be showing on HBO on Tuesday May 24.
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