art house documentaries never stir up a lot of mainstream buzz but this summer’s crop is water cooler talk all over the country. leading the pack of contenders is morgan neville’s won’t you be my neighbor? (june 8), which examines pbs’ mister rogers and the life lessons of compassion he hoped to leave behind. there’s a great scene at the beginning of the film where one of the longtime producers says “if you take all of the elements that make good television and do the exact opposite, you have ‘mister rogers’ neighborhood’: low production values, simple set, an unlikely star.”
but alas, his star continues to shine. already, the movie has grossed over $18 million at the box office and was in the top 10 movies in the country last week. quite a feat. a documentary hasn’t exceeded $20 million since 2013’s one direction: this is us.
another one making noise this summer is rbg (may 4), which explores the incredible life, love and career of 85-year-old supreme court justice, ruth bader ginsburg. she may only stand at 5 foot 1 inch but this movie packed a punch as it touches on her early years of fighting for women’s rights, her tender love story with her husband, marty ginsburg and of late, her intergenerational popularity.
finally, on a wider, more commercial scale, whitney (july 5), about pop icon whitney houston, released earlier this month. the documentary, the second one to focus on the singer in recent years, paints a melancholy image of her struggle with inner demons rather than celebrating her successes. movie goers will not have the same reaction to this one as the first two mentioned documentaries in this article but it’s an intriguing story nonetheless.
rbg is playing this week at the belcourt. won’t you be my neighbor? is playing at the belcourt and opry mills 20. whitney is playing at hollywood 27, regal green hills 16 and opry mills 20.