Love, Gilda provides its viewers with a personal, nuanced look at its titular subject. While documentaries tend to stick to the format of interviews with added footage, Love, Gilda uses archived audio, notes, letters, and diary entries to let Gilda Radner tell her story in her own words. The film is laced with interviews from people she inspired, such as SNL cast members Amy Poehler and Bill Hader, who pour through Gilda’s writing with amazement.
Radner was more than just the first cast member of SNL and more than the hilarious characters she created: she was a human being. She struggled with universal issues such as mental health, including battles she fought with eating disorders. She loved being in love and when it left, she didn’t know what to do. Her relationship with fame was one filled with doubt and occasional anger. In 1986, she was diagnosed with “the most unfunny thing in the world,” ovarian cancer. Throughout everything, Gilda used her comedy as a coping mechanism, turning her pain into jokes. Gilda remained a beam of light to every life she touched, from friend Martin Short to husband Gene Wilder.
Unlike other documentaries that show a life from beginning to end, the last part of Gilda’s life shown on-screen is her second relapse with cancer, rather than her death which occurred soon after. The film instead decides to go out on a high moment of Gilda — a clip of her performing on Broadway doing what she loved: making people laugh. I think Gilda, herself, would have loved this choice, almost as much as she loved life. By the time the credits rolled, I felt as if I knew Gilda myself and was sorry to see her go.