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Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

Director:  Griffin Dunne
Year Released:  2017
Rating:  2.0

Director Dunne gives a quaint portrait of his aunt, the great novelist/essayist Joan Didion, detailing her relationship with her late husband, John Gregory Dunne, raising her adopted daughter Quintana, moving back and forth across the country and, of course, commenting on America's absurdity from the 1960's onward. The work of Didion rightly belongs in the Western Canon (even Obama was shocked she never won the Presidential Medal of Freedom), but there's a flagrant bias to Dunne's presentation - journalist Joan would have probably objected to the easy sentimentality (the repeated shots of Joan's emaciated arms shows a deep concern for her physical health) and balked at the idea of turning this into hagiography (she's had plenty of critics over the years whose voices are not included) ... so perhaps someone who wasn't a relative should have taken on the project. Flaws aside, there are moments to cherish for fans of the writer - her powers of insight are commendable - and while it's tough to see her shake and tremble, her mind is still clear. If you haven't read anything by her yet, you're missing out: I suggest picking up the novels Play It As It Lays (which influenced Bret Easton Ellis) and Democracy as well as non-fiction collections Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album.

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