THE SHOW "Dad's in Heaven With Nixon," Showtime, 8:30 Tuesday night
REASON TO WATCH A personal film about a family, and a son with autism. Much of this is based in Southampton.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT
Written and directed by Tom Murray, a former reporter with KCAL in Los Angeles and now an independent producer, this is mostly about his younger brother, Chris. Born in 1960, Chris had been oxygen-deprived at birth and developed what would later be diagnosed as autism. He is a high-functioning autistic, with a "Rain Man"-like speaking pattern, who also possesses a genuine gift. (Best, though, to watch this film to find out what that is.) The Murrays were an Irish-Catholic family (five kids) of real wealth who spent their summers in the genteel, pre-fast-money world of Southampton. Tom Murray's great-grandfather, Thomas E. Murray, was a famed inventor who worked with Edison and developed New York City's early power grid. In the early part of this film, Tom Murray - who appears frequently on camera - has re-created this world with a bounty of old family home movies. Much of this is about Tom's dad, "Big Tommy," ultimately felled by depression and bipolar disorder. The ending - a promise - is actually happy.
Even with its faults - and there are a few - and a final act that goes on (and on and on), I loved this film. I loved its honesty and beauty and passion and generosity. But most of all, I loved Murray's deeply human attempt to connect with his dead father and his living - intensely living - brother Chris. Tom wants to tell you everything about his past because (you suspect) this oversharing is his way of coming to terms with himself. At moments, you fight the impulse to avert your gaze in the intense privacy of the moment. But Murray wants to force your eyes back to the screen. He's taking you on this journey through his soul because this is the trip he has taken to reach catharsis.
BOTTOM LINE Those faults? As mentioned, it's too long, and sometimes this feels like some half-finished play Eugene O'Neill set aside - the booze, the self-destruction, destitution and, finally, triumph! Except it's all true. And intensely moving.