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Maverick Molly outfoxes conservative America

Engrossing biopic about Texas-based newspaper columnist is a wonderful watch for anyone interested in the written word

22 October, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

Wisecracking virtuosity: Molly Ivins

RAISE HELL: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS
Directed by Janice Engel
Certificate: PG
☆☆☆☆

MARRYING a far-reaching political radar with a searing intellect and a moral compass, a biting wit flows through the work of Texas-based newspaper columnist Molly Ivins.

This biopic is a brilliant primer of recent US history, told through the life of one of its finest chroniclers.

We start in a 50s childhood and learn about how Molly was brought up in a family with a patriarchal oil baron as a father. From this deeply conservative background sprung a siren voice for sensible politics.

This engrossing and funny film lays out her life and beliefs and illustrates what makes her a joy to read, a wisecracking virtuosity that elevates her work above other similar Gonzo political journalism.

We follow her through college, her ambition to be a foreign correspondent with shades of Martha Gellhorn, and a stint on the New York Times (where her style and gags did not sit well with the papers small-c conservative editors). Then it was a triumphant return to Texan newspapers where she has carved herself a role as one of America’s most widely read syndicated columnists.

Asked why she puts up with living in a state with entrenched Republican views and where the awful remnants of the Jim Crow era lingers, she answers that she believes there are enough liberals in California. To make a difference, she needs to be where there are those who need persuading.

And what persuasion: Molly’s columns tear strips off authority with a turn of phrase like a Texan PG Wodehouse. Such gems include her thoughts on GW Bush: “Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention”, and on a serious and timely note, she also writes: “It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.”

A wonderful watch for anyone remotely interested in the written word – enlightening, inspiring and very funny indeed.

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