All The Beauty and the Bloodshed

Where I Watched It: HBO mAX

English Audio Description?: yes

I was quite excited for this Oscar nominated documentary. Yes, i saw it after it lost the Oscar, and i agree with it losing. Navolni was just a better documentary. This is something I will concede will be received differently depending on what you are expecting from it, and what you’ve heard it was about. I was expecting more of a focus on the epic takedown of the Sackler family. instead, I got frank interviews with an artist.


As the subject of the film, Nan, an artist who has lived her life on the edge, has rallied against the Sackler family. but instead of the documentarians feeling like that battle was interesting enough to hold a movie on its own, we really instead get a deep dive into the life and relevancy of nan the artist instead of Nan the activist. normally, I approach all projects like this where the individual being profiled is so heavily involved, as it’s always the way they want to be portrayed, but after hearing Nan talk about her life, it becomes impossible to believe that there’s a part of her life that she hid from anyone. If it is, it’s something incredibly mundane, like she enjoys crossstitching. because she admits to some pretty wild shit. one time, she traded oral sex with a man just to get him to carry some boxes for her. When people say “those were different times”, they apparently really were.

Nan has lived quite a life, and I can understand why someone would want to spend two hours with her. But for my buck, I wanted a hell of a lot more about how people worked to get the Sackler name off of all these artistic places, and how Nan became a force in that movement. I’m always open for some backstory, and a look at why Nan is relevant, but the balance here is non-existent, and the Sackler family drama is such a small part of the film.

Sometimes, advertising can hurt you. If you say your film is about one thing, and then it isn’t, it can really affect how you enjoy the final product. It’s somewhat like the marketing for Jurassic World Dominion, which was marketed as the end of another era, only to have Colin Trevorrow openly discuss that he has no plans to stop making Jurassic films.

As far as the audio description, I have to thank HBO MAX here, because this film would not have had audio description without them. Neon is not known for supporting accessibility, and I’ve seen this available on VOD without audio description. So, the fact that the film has it at all is nice, and the fact that it allows for moments to be described, like the protests done against Sackler named facilities, helped to bring it all together.

Sadly, I saw several better documentaries last year that either surprised me a lot more, or gave me a lot to think about. I didn’t really feel like i was changed in any way here, that I learned a lot, or was moved or effected by this film. The potential is there, it just isn’t what I wanted.

Final Grade: B-

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