Saturday, May 19, 2012

Movie Review: Norman Mailer - The American

Norman Mailer was most famous for being a writer although he did many different things in his life. He wrote over forty books in his lifetime, which is most definitely a massive feat. He was a fascinating person and through this movie, you can definitely see why so many still consider him larger than life. He's funny and witty and has a splash of craziness (he takes drugs, he stabs his wife) that only serves to make him even more fascinating. On the matter of Mailer stabbing his second wife (the man was married 6 times! Oh my!), Adele, it was so interesting to hear from his daughter about how she and his other children sort of made peace with their father stabbing their mother. It's definitely one of the crazier parts of the movie; although there are a lot of crazy parts. I can't think of You almost can't turn away from the screen because you're so wrapped up in his sort of insanity. Does madness breed genius?

The documentary draws on interviews with Norman Mailer and those that knew him best. The documentary includes his lovers and his children. Each person has a different picture of Mailer and they add up to one really full picture that gives you a great sense of who he actually was as a person. It also helps that in the interviews with him in the movie are fully candid. How often do we get to hear from a great American writer like Mailer? Not often enough, to be sure.

While I have never read any of Mailer's books (this must change soon) and only some of his smaller pieces, this movie definitely draws you in to Mailer's story and life. One thing that you really get to see is how real Mailer was. He never hid anything and he was up front and uncensored about almost everything in the world. He lived through some of the decades that brought the most change to this country. He was right there running with the in crowd and living on the edge.

As I mentioned before, I've never read any of Mailer's books. Even though I haven't read anything by him, this movie definitely is still worth a watch. You really do get to see why Mailer is so fascinating even after his death. Those that like American writing, biographies, pure genius or madness will enjoy this movie.


  1. You MUST at least read Norman Mailer's THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG. I read it when it was first in paperback, way back in the 1970s, and it was so good I still remember it.

    That book is nonfiction and reads as well as the best fiction.

    1. I definitely want to read some of the books mentioned in the documentary (The Executioner's Song included). I love books that stick with you for a long time!


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