Review

Closure Documentary Review (Netflix)

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My Rating: 3.7
This is an emotional documentary about a young woman’s search to find her birth parents after growing up in a large multiracial family in Washington State. Angela, an African American woman that was raised by Caucasian parents has always felt a need to connect with her birth parents and find out more about herself. This documentary is a personal and heartfelt story that takes the viewer through the spectrum of emotions felt by adoptive children and their families. It touches upon issues of identity related to race, family and sense of belonging without delving too deep in any of these topics.

This film begins with a pivotal moment when Angela finally strikes up the courage to call her birth mother for the first time. The phone rings and we hear a “hello” from the mother that she so desperately was trying to find. The film then launches into the back story of a young girl adopted as a baby with special needs. She was told that she would never walk. We discover that not only does she walk but she becomes a basketball player. She is a psychology major and works in the adoption agency that her parents adopted her from.

We follow Angela and her family’s journey to find her birth parents. The eventual meeting is complicated and filled with nervousness, joy and, as the title suggests, closure for Angela and her family. Undoubtedly the heart of this film is Angela. Throughout her journey of self-discovery, she remains effervescent and positive. The combination of her vulnerability and simultaneous strength is what really resonated with me. The director of the film is her husband, Bryan Tucker, who serves as a narrator of the story. This adds to the extremely personal nature of the film. If there is one criticism that I could give to this movie is that I would have wanted to hear more of Angela’s story and experiences in her own voice. We saw her go through all these life changing experiences and I wanted desperately to know what was going through her head.

Though the film could have dug deeper into the underlying effects and ramifications that the adoption process has on families and individuals, this film manages to take us on a personal journey that is certainly worth watching and reminds us that coming to terms with your history and roots is an important part of self-acceptance.
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Opinion, Review

Stop At Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story Review (Netflix)

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My Rating: 4/5

Lance Armstrong is sitting in the conference room of his lawyer’s office under deposition aggressively, unapologetically denying any use of performance enhancing drugs during his career. And so starts the film about an arrogant bully who would do anything to get what he wants including deceiving the public and destroying anyone who gets in his way. This film does a brilliant job taking the viewer into the secret world of back rooms and team trailers where some of the world’s top cyclists were shooting up steroids and EPO’s while reaping the benefits of million dollar sponsorship deals.

This film highlights the media’s role in buying into the Lance Armstrong “hero” story. How his struggles with overcoming cancer and his incredible against all odds comeback made him untouchable. The media routinely ignored clues that something more sinister may be going on and continued to present Lance Armstrong as the ultimate sports champion. Those who dared to question him publicly were shunned and personally targeted by Lance.

Director Alex Holmes starts with Lance’s meager beginnings in Texans with dreams of making it big. He paints Lance as an incredibly ambitious man who saw the cycling world as a way to make huge fortunes. When the opportunity presented itself, Lance seemed to think it was a no-brainer that he would enlist the help of one of the most notorious suspected doping doctors in the cycling world; Dr. Ferrari (Yes, that is his real name). His rising momentum came to halt when he received a startling testicular cancer diagnosis. It was in an Indiana State Hospital room that Betsy Andreu and her husband overheard Lance admit to a group of consulting doctors that he had taken a variety of performance enhancing substances.

Lance made a recovery and soon returned to the sport of cycling. And when he returned, it was with a vengeance. It’s here during the seven Tour de France wins that the film gets juicy describing scenes almost too salacious to believe of midnight steroid pickups in a McDonald’s parking lot and last minute blood transfusions in hotel rooms all during the most watched and speculated event in cycling. Regardless of the rightness of his actions, the man sure was bold.

After his wins, Lance Armstrong had practically achieved God status in American sports and his brand was as big as ever. As meteoric as his rise was, so was his fall. A disgruntled former member of his cycling bitter from his firing came out and publicly attested to participating in doping and watching Lance Armstrong do the same. Armstrong was enraged and did everything in his power to fight the truth. A federal investigation was remarkably dropped against Armstrong despite first-hand witnesses to his fraud. But after a follow-up investigation was conducted by the U.S. anti-doping agency, he could no longer lie to the public. Cue Oprah and her now iconic interview in which, within the first several minutes, Lance Armstrong admitted to everything he had fought so hard to hide.

I found this documentary to be incredibly enraging and a fascinating study in what happens when we want so hard to believe in a miraculous comeback story that we are willing to ignore the flaws of our hero. There were many journalists who had sounded the alarm about the deceit but that was a narrative the mainstream media did not want to know. The more I watched, the more I was shocked at how cocky and frankly scary Lance Armstrong behaviors were. As disturbing was this story was there was one hero that emerged from it all: Betsey Andreu, the wife of a former Postal Service team member who for a decade dared to expose Lance’s conduct. While everyone else that knew of the fraud was scared into silence, Betsy Andreu remarkably stood strong and was never willing to back down. As Betsey says in the documentary, “what Lance never hard was the truth.” If there is one clear conclusion to be drawn from this, it’s that Lance Armstrong no doubt was a talented athlete but an even more talented liar.

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