FILM: “PLIMPTON! Starring George Plimpton As Himself”at SILVERDOCS Documentary Film Festival

Documentary / SILVERDOCS / June 27, 2012
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What if you could play in a pro NFL game one day, and photograph exotic animals on Safari the next? How about performing in a flying trapeze act, and the next day yachting with the Kennedys? And so goes the charmed life of writer/editor, man about town, bon vivant, and (according to his Wikipedia page) “gamesman” – George Plimpton.

Directed by Tom Bean, “PLIMPTON!” is a documentary celebrating the life and times of George Plimpton. Born into privileged 1930s Manhattan society, he did the standard stints at Exeter, Harvard, and Cambridge. From there, he founded and then edited the groundbreaking literary journal, The Paris Review.

Handsome, dashing, smart and smarmy—Plimpton was the proto-typical “all the guys want to be, all the girls want to be with” guy. Hugh Hefner and George Clooney don’t have anything on Plimpton.

Plimpton continued his literary celebrity by advancing the genre of “New Journalism.” Joining writers like Hunter S. Thompson and Gay Talese, Plimpton wrote about his first hand experiences with adventures of all sorts. He played football for the Detroit Lions, percussion for the New York Philharmonic, and pitched in major league baseball games.

Although he was this larger than life celebrity figure, who basically had the coolest job on the planet, much of the film is spent with friends and family lamenting the fact that he wasn’t taken more seriously as a writer. This notion was very annoying — as was much of the narration, which was done in Plimpton’s recorded voice.

For an American who grew up in New York, he had that kind of affected aristocratic lilt that calls to mind Madonna’s faux British accent.

Ultimately, his smug self-deprecation about how pro-football players are (shocker!) better at football than him eventually became irritating and off-putting.

Grade: C-

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Emily Achler

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June 27, 2012

FILM: “PLIMPTON! Starring George Plimpton As Himself”at SILVERDOCS Documentary Film Festival