Friday, November 23, 2018

Book Review: 'Reeling Through Life' by Tara Ison

Tara Ison takes films seriously. "Reeling through Life" is her love letter to movies that have remained in her consciousness for decades and have also become part of her worldview. In her entertaining introduction and the nine engrossing chapters that follow, she relates how her experiences paralleled some of the films that she saw (often at a ridiculously early age).

Whatever challenges life has in store for us--mental illness, stormy marriages, religious conflicts, addiction, illness, or death--has been showcased in movies. Who can see "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" or "Snake Pit" without being horrified at society's mistreatment of the emotionally disturbed or those who refuse to conform? People who are interested in how one faces death may turn to melodramatic weepies ("Love Story"), edgy comedies ("Harold and Maude"), or films in which soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice ("Gallipoli," "Glory," "Saving Private Ryan"). Individuals mesmerized by alcoholics and their struggles have plenty of choices, including "Days of Wine and Roses" and "The Lost Weekend."

"Reeling Through Life" stands out, not only for Ison's take on the films that she showcases, but also for her candid anecdotes about her family, friends, lovers, and career. She admits that she and others close to her have had serious issues. Her grandmother's sister, for example, was both blind and manic-depressive. Tara's father loved her, but his "closest, most intimate relationship was to alcohol." Her mother was emotionally fragile, dependent, and flighty. The author has sometimes drunk too much herself and cannot sustain long-term relationships. Sounds grim, no? Fortunately, Ison transforms what could have been a "woe is me" memoir into a funny, wickedly satirical, and intelligent evaluation of the ways in which art imitates life and life imitates art. This is a nostalgia trip for cineastes, a humorous look at the sillier efforts of screenwriters and directors, and a refreshing journey with a talented writer who believes that movies allow her "to enter into and inhabit other realities" and compare them to her own.

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right

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