SXSW 2019 Review: “Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins”

By Liz Lopez

Rating: A

Director Janice Engel’s feature documentary was screened during SXSW a few months ago and is easily one of my favorites from this year’s festival. I am not the only one to think so, as this film is an Audience Award Winner in the Festival Favorites category. Engel and Monique Zavistovski both wrote this very entertaining tribute to the larger than life writer and political commentator, Molly Ivins. Just to hear her name and even just typing it right now, brings a huge grin to my face as I recall so many of the numerous excerpts of Molly being Molly and telling it like she saw fit. Of course, she had her fans and following, but she also had many who disliked her and said as much in hate mail and death threats. For anyone who is not completely versed on all things Molly Ivins, this is one film that is not to be missed. You will laugh and cry, so be prepared. 

Among the many that you will hear from are journalists Rachel Maddow and Dan Rather, the late Ann Richards (in archival footage), as well as Cecile Richards, Ben Barnes, and Liz Faulk.

The overall film is excellent, but it wouldn’t be complete without the music from various Texas talent. I won’t list the many and let this be a surprise when you view it in the theater. 

The film does cover Molly’s life as she was raised in Houston, along with her sister, by a Texas oil man and her mama. She didn’t see eye – to – eye with her Daddy’s way of thinking and there were plenty of differences. She graduated from Smith College, then wrote for the Houston Chronicle and others before writing for the Texas Observer in the early 1970s. She also wrote for The New York Times, but in the early 1980s, she returned to native state and wrote more freely for the Dallas Times Herald, leading to syndication in a myriad of publications. It is great to see how the film captures the late journalist’s career and wit so well.

This story does not stay away from the topic of Molly’s drinking and her sobriety. After a seven-year battle with cancer, she passed away in 2007.                             

The film also features comments by: Dave “Moose” McNeely, Lou Dubose, Andy Ivins, Sara Ivins, Sarah Speights, Marty Maley, Carlton Carl, Terry O’Rourke, Ronnie Dugger, Dave Richards, Don Carleton, Charles Kaiser, Linda Jann Lewis, Anthony Zurcher, Harold Cook, Betsy Moon, Ellen Sweets, Myra MacPherson, Anne Lamott, Paul Krugman.

The 1 hour 33 – minute film is now available in Texas theaters as of August 30th, before a release in New York City and Los Angeles on September 13th. For a list of cities in Texas that will be offering the film, visit https://www.mollyivinsfilm.com/tickets/tickets/

Source: Magnolia Pictures

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