Within the first five minutes of I Am Chris Farley, you will be overcome with the sense of loss and grief. We go back to when Chris was just a child and see his siblings talking about their departed brother, and the loss of a beloved family member becomes instantaneously too real. You will laugh, a lot, you will cry, a lot, but most of all you will miss him, a lot.
To be frank, I don’t know how the directors, Brent Hodge and Derik Murray, were able to sway so many individuals to participate in this film, but I am incredibly happy that they did. With seemingly no connection to Center City, SNL, Wisconsin or any of the comedic actors involved in this documentary, they were able garner the approval of Farley’s friends and family and tell the quintessential Chris Farley story. Hodge and Murray are able to capture the magic that was Farley in this narrative, and convey the love and talent of the man.
I Am Chris Farley starts with his family and up bringing in Madison Wisconsin, told through anecdotes from his brothers that will have you chuckling and saying to yourself “yup, that sounds like Chris.” Though, like most people, you never had the opportunity to meet the energetically larger than life individual, and your only perception of him is through a screen. From there, we follow Chris to college and get a more comprehensive view of the man and how he came to pursue comedy as a profession. Onward to Chicago, then New York, then Hollywood and then…
I Am Chris Farley is a documentary told with love and respect for the person, not a glorifyingly tacky exploration of demons a la an E! True Hollywood Story episode. It celebrates Farley, his warm and tender nature and natural ability to touch our funny bones. And while it must touch upon the factors that resulted in his death, those minor notes are not the point of the documentary.
Instead, I Am Chris Farley does a wonderful job of highlighting the man, taking time to focus on little gems in his personality and comedic habits, bringing them full circle – showing that perhaps Farley never deviated much from that sensitive kid from Wisconsin who wanted to be liked. Some people may criticize the film for glossing over the darker components of his life; however, any audience member with a semblance of empathy will be able to infer the cause of death, without needing the documentary to explicitly go into the sordid details.
In the hour and half documentary, you will feel as though you too knew and were able to call Chris Farley a friend. And the end of I Am Chris Farley will hurt, and though you know he wouldn’t want you to cry, you just won’t be able to stop yourself.
I Am Chris Farley – Documentary Review