“GORE VIDAL: THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA” My rating: B (Opening July 25 at the Screenland Crown Center)
83 minutes | No MPAA rating
Gore Vidal was pissed off by so many people and things that you wonder he could get out of bed in the morning.
He was contemptuous of the ruling class (into which he was born), identifying it as a pack of scheming, manipulative greedheads. At the same time Vidal could only shake his head in dismay at the boneheadedness of the average citizen, so lazy and distracted by life’s diversions that he cannot discern where his own best interests lie.
Given this, Vidal should have been an insufferable misanthrope.
But as Nicholas D. Wrathall’s documentary makes clear, just the opposite was true. Gore Vidal — novelist (Myra Breckenridge, Lincoln, Burr), social observer (The Rise and Fall of the American Empire), essayist, screenwriter and playwright (“Ben-Hur,” “The Best Man”), gadfly, twice a candidate for Congress — made affrontery charming. With that patrician delivery, his cool analysis of facts and personalities, and his wonderful way with a verbal harpoon, he was hugely entertaining. Even if you didn’t much like what he was saying.
“Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia,” begins shortly before the writer’s death in 2012. He’s touring the cemetery where he will be laid to rest, pointing out the graves of old acquaintances, the plots of prominant families with whom he has been familiar his entire life. Finally he stands over his own grave. A marker already bears his name and the date of his birth in 1925. It just awaits the addition of the day he will die.