By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
In 1970, Michael James Brody Jr. an heir to oleomargarine millions, publicly announced that he would give away all of the money from his $25 million fortune to anyone who needed it. Known as a “hippie angel,” Brody obviously was not prepared for the massive response he would receive once he made his offer public. Directed by Keith Maitland (Tower), the documentary film Dear Mr. Brody recounts the events surrounding this massive undertaking by Michael J. Brody, Jr. and the genuine need it revealed. Featuring a mix of both press footage and interviews with people close to the late benefactor, along with either the actual people who reached out or their closest relatives, Maitland delivers an outstanding and emotionally affecting about Brody’s wild-haired, but seeming well-meaning gesture.
In addition to utilizing press footage and interviews, Maitland utilizes some awesomely appropriate aesthetic choices that capture the style and feel of the hippie generation. Any audience watching this film should feel like they are experiencing a living time capsule of the 60s overflowing into the 70s, as optimism and dreams sadly devolved into reality and cynicism. Maitland often launches the film forward to the present and reveals the impact that Brody had on the masses who, obviously, were in dire need of assistance. The film also reveals much about Brody and his troubled life, and often tries to shed light on why he would even want to attempt such a crazy and massive undertaking.
I cannot say any more positive things about this film that I already have. Keith Maitland takes this incredible story and gives it the documentary film it definitely deserves. This year’s virtual SXSW film festival was a great year for documentary movies, and this one is certainly one of my favorite offerings.