Thursday, June 26, 2014

To Be Takei (2014): It's OK to be Takei's Autobiography

To Be Takei (2014)
dir: Bill Weber, Jennifer M Kroot

SIFF 2014 Film #23

George Takei is one of those stars who has known how to continually adapt and build his brand. He has changed several times over the years, and his brand has always seemed to be honest, which makes him one of the best, most ingenious, stars of our generation. To Be Takei commemorates George Takei in all his fabulous glory, and it's almost exactly what you'd expect from one of the biggest stars on Facebook.

Takei's life began as a kid in California, when at a very young age his whole family was sent to a Japanese internment camp during WWII. From those humble beginnings, Takei made his way into Hollywood, starred in a beloved tv series, became a politician, became a movie star, became an internet star, then became the producer and writer of a musical about the Japanese internment camp. To Be Takei tackles all of these subjects taking us behind the scenes of the brand of George Takei to give us a bit more of the personal than we usually get, just like in most of these commemorative films.

To Be Takei serves as a life chronicle, a career retrospective, a commercial for Takei's new musical Allegiance, a bit of life with George and Brad (George Takei's husband), and a call for gay rights. Crammed into 90 minutes, To Be Takei never really delves too deeply to penetrate much more than the surfaces of anything, including the Japanese internment (for that, you'll have to see Allegiance), but does pass the time aimably enough. Even the warts and all approach amounts to George ribbing everybody about their weight, and Brad semi-adorably worrying and kvetching about everything in order to keep the brand happy and rolling. Brad serves as George's manager as well as lover, and he seems happy about that.

It's hard to be disappointed in To Be Takei as it has so many topics to cover, and does it all entertainingly, but the surface-level lack of depth to any of the topics still disappoints, especially when it comes to either of the really tough topics: internment camps and coming out. Takei didn't publicly come out until after Prop 8 in 2008, but had been dating Brad since 1989(ish). Yet, he doesn't delve into how he stayed in the closet for so long, what he thought of that, and how it affected him. The gay rights topic gets about as much time as the Shatner "feud." The bulk of the film seems to be the internment camp, but much of it is as more informational than completely emotional. It's also separated out into sections as a recurring thread throughout the film, thus never breaking out into a full-on weepy section of depth.

If you really want to know what's on Takei's mind in what he wants to project to the world, To Be Takei is like an OK star-autobiography. Not that long, slightly self-effacing, no real dirt on anybody, and a good summary of a life, but not deep enough to truly get to know the subject (or, alternately, for the star to bury themselves in). It's crowd-pleasing and winning, just like Takei himself, but can I help it if I really wanted more?

No comments:

Post a Comment