As emcee at the Nantucket Film Festival's Tribute ceremony, at a former casino in Siasconset, on the island's far end, mild mannered Brian Williams brought down the house riffing on an unfortunate white Buick Enclave rental, local produce like urine cheese, and pervasive V necked cashmere. Such was the truth-telling, even preppie WASPs lost control of their reticence on family secrets. Maybe Nantucket's signature fog and rain contributed to the mood swings: count the suicides. Williams went dark, confessing he had an Irish uncle who died of drink. Who knew?
And so crazy got even crazier at last week's film fest where a restored theater called Dreamland is the main venue, rife for celluloid induced mental states. There, Barbara Kopple, honored for best non-fiction storytelling screened her new documentary, Running from Crazy, tells the Hemingway family story through a focus on Mariel Hemingway's activism on a family problem that affected her grandfather Ernest, sister Margaux, and several other family members, suicide.
Glenn Close in conversation with Chris Matthews wanted to veer off film roles such as Fatal Attraction--Matthews was obsessed with her murderous character-- to speak about her work for Bring Change to Mind, her foundation to help her sister suffering from mental illness. Introducing David O. Russell whose multi-academy award nominated Silver Linings Playbook is as much acclaimed for the light it shines on mental illness, she reiterated, the director made the film, inspired by his son Matt who has bipolar disorder. Close and Russell met a month ago when the director showed up at her fundraiser during the time he was shooting his new feature American Hustle in Boston. He spoke about meeting with Joe Biden at the White House in an effort to give mental health the status of other health issues. As we've seen in the violence of Sandy Hook, for example, mental illness is far from rare in American lives.
Advocacy resonated in the documentary Life According to Sam. Filmmakers Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine followed the story of a charismatic young teen, Sam Berns, afflicted with a rare disease called progeria which causes its victims to age so rapidly, most do not go beyond childhood, succumbing to heart disease. Scientists, Sam's parents are active in finding a cure. Their progress with their own son, and others like him, is simply spell-binding.
The festival offered humor as a cure-all: crazy for crazy, laugh for laugh. Lake Bell was honored for the film she wrote, directed and stars in: In a World, a father-daughter comedy set in the hilarious and competitive voice-over industry. Turns out Bell did her time doing voice overs early in her career, and announced the safety speech on airlines as a child frequent flyer unaccompanied by an adult. An annual festival feature is the comedy round table, this year emcee'd by Michael Ian Black with Ben Stiller, Mike Myers, and Seth Meyers. Early on, the techies had to re-mike Black who stood crotch forward, suggesting the spontaneous sound adjustment was way more provocative than you might expect.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.