In KURT VONNEGUT: UNSTUCK IN TIME, a biography of Kurt Vonnegut, most of his early life is told mostly with home movies. Later the narrative is composed from photos of his articles, books, first pages of manuscripts, and footage shot by director Robert B. Weide and others. Weide took almost forty years to make this film (he started planning in 1982, and shooting in 1988). Weide is best known for documentaries about famous comedians, and for the movie and series CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM.
After Vonnegut is introduced as being either insane or the only person not insane, the documentary reverts to a more traditional biography. His family was fairly well-to-do, but they were wiped out by the Depression. They lost their home, and he had to leave private school. In public school, he became immersed in pop culture, and a fan of comedians such as Laurel and Hardy. Vonnegut was the family comedian from when he was young, and described his books as "screamingly funny." During World War II, he was a POW in Dresden during the fire-bombing there. (Vonnegut claimed he actually saw Dresden in a premonition before it happened.) He went to work after the war for General Electric as a publicity writer, but finally had to choose between an industrial career at GE or a career of writing. It was not much of a fight. He quit GE and wrote full-time.
Vonnegut seemed to live by phrases he uses repeatedly in his writing. "Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time." "So it goes." It is not clear that they mean much beyond Vonnegut's attachment to them.
At the end of his life, Weide says, all of Vonnegut's books were in print. One person said of him, "Vonnegut was championed by the people, not by the critics," although eventually he was given critical acclaim by the literary establishment. Either way, Vonnegut was a writer whose outlook was shaped by his fear of failing. Some of his books made it and some did not. So it goes.
Releases theatrically 11/19/2021. Rating: high +1, or 6/10.
Film Credits: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1461238/reference
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/kurt_vonnegut_unstuck_in_time
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2021 Mark R. Leeper