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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Belushi - Documentary Review


The Documentary: Belushi

The Director: R.J. Cutler

The Story: Using previously unheard audiotapes recorded shortly after John Belushi's death, director R.J. Cutler's documentary examines the too-short life of once-in-a-generation talent who captured the hearts and funny bones of devoted audiences.


The Review:
Growing up I always knew the legend of John Belushi. The man who dominated Saturday Night Live and then went on to a movie and music career that was fueled as much by his own creativity as it was by drugs and alcohol. The magic of this documentary is in listening to the recorded conversations and interviews with the people who knew him best and I mean the real John Belushi not the glitz and glam funny man everyone knew and adored.

Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi, Judy Belushi, Harold Ramis, Lorne Michaels, and Carrie Fisher are just a few of the people we have the privilege of listening to as they recall where John was at and what he was going through at various points of his life. Once the layers of his drug fueled rock star persona are peeled away, you begin to understand who Belushi was and it becomes apparent just how much he relied on substances to balance out the mental and emotional issues he had been dealing with since childhood.

This story seems to repeat itself over and over within the entire entertainment industry and the one consistency is how, in a person's final days, they have been left alone with nowhere to turn except for their vices. The industry they thrived in leaves them in a trail of excess and abuse in some form or another without much of a care for a human being's health and well being. It's mentioned in a few different ways that Mr. Belushi had no support groups when he was sober to help him process his real thoughts and emotions and substance abuse was the only coping mechanism that was readily available.

On one hand, it's amazing to see the wonderful side of the man's life and sit in awe at everything he accomplished over the short 33 years of life that he had, but on the other, you have to wonder how much of that time he truly enjoyed and how much more could he have lived if given the opportunity. The 1970's and 1980's were definitely decades of discovery in a lot of different ways and with those discoveries came a lot of unknowns, one of those being how to understand drug addiction at the levels it was being experienced during that time.

I would like to think we, as humans, have made progress in this area and we have yet we still see these stories play out every day, not just in Hollywood or the music industry but in every day life with family, friends, and other people we cross paths with in life. Maybe understanding the life of John Belushi can give us some insight on what we can do as a community to support each other. Maybe I am the addict or maybe I know someone who is. Where did John succeed and where did he fail. Where did the people around him succeed and where did they fail.

Dan Aykroyd pointed out that the one thing that has stuck with him over the years is that, knowing his best friend was in trouble, he couldn't get to him fast enough to save his life. Let's all be there for each other so that these stories can be lessons of the past instead of the things we go through. I think that's what Mr. Belushi would want us to learn from his life and from his story.


The Verdict:
Belushi is an insightful documentary told through the voices of those who knew him best. Having only known the rock star image of a man who famously crashed and burned into oblivion, it was interesting to get to know the human being behind the outrageous antics and drug fueled persona.


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