Many people love Bill Hicks. For them, he is a comedy legend. For many more however, Bill Hicks is a stranger, so thank f**k that this film has come along.
A few years in the making, this semi-animated documentary about the scathing comics life, and death, became a labour of love for the filmmakers, Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas. The Hicks family had been approached before about making a film of Bill’s life, but until these guys came along, no pitch had managed to pass the test.
To ensure that Bill is ever present in the documentary, and not just part of emotional ramblings presented in talking head format by friends and family, the filmmakers used photos of Hicks and friends and re-jigged them in an ever-so-clever way, to create a believable retelling of Bill’s beginnings as a stand up comic.
As well as the animation, the film features a lot of actual footage of Hick’s stand up routines. These moments in the film are the real magic. The rest of the film is great, but understated enough to make the stock footage stand out and transport the cinema audience to whatever skanky comedy club Bill was shot performing in. The footage is poor quality, due to age and technology, but it is enough to take you close enough to Bill’s presence.
Hick’s routines build and build with his ever increasing anger and caustic rage, which pulls you in to his mindset, until you are no longer laughing, but standing alongside him, just as angry, just as incensed by the injustice of the government, commercialism, or the man or woman who broke your heart, until you forget that he was meant to be telling you a joke. But then when you think that he, and you, can’t get any more angry, that it’s all taken a serious turn, he sucker punches you with a line, the line, whose truth is so ludicrous you have no choice but to laugh.
Hicks was astounded at the censorship of free speech in his homeland, America. The country that was built on the notion of freedom but only really allows those who have the money to pay for it, to actually be free, and gags those who try to reveal what is wrong or embarrassing about its policies.
It’s Hick’s pursuit of the truth which underpins his comedy, and the lynch pin of the movie. Fifteen years after his death, and his attacks on the government for selling arms to a country and then attacking that country for owning those very same weapons, is just as brutally relevant and somewhat shocking, in today’s climate, so nothing has changed.
Watch this movie and be inspired. Ask why people with this much wit, honesty and passion aren’t running the world – but then answer it with the realisation that there would be no need for people like Hicks to make us realise how ridiculous this world really is. Watch this movie, and become the biggest Bill Hicks fan you can possibly be.
Staff Review: Sara Lovejoy