AFI FEST 2020: Belushi Review – Everybody Needs Somebody to Love

R.J. Cutler’s Belushi approaches John Belushi with loving affection for him and his wild comedic talent. Although the film doesn’t have many surprises in store for you, Cutler’s film tells Belushi’s story through the words of the people who knew him and his letters to his wife. In many ways, Belushi’s story follows the same tragic tale as other Hollywood actors gone too soon: A young up-and-coming talent, haunted by their inner demons, loses their battle with drugs. Belushi follows the life of John Belushi with help by never-before-heard audio tapes and never-before-seen letters to his wife, Judy Belushi Pisano. 

We all know Belushi’s tragic story, but R.J. Cutler allows John Belushi to tell his story in his own words thanks to some archival interviews and his sweet letters to Judy. Outside of Belushi’s archival interviews, no talking heads are appearing on camera. The audiotapes that appear in the film are being heard for the first time as well. Those interviews conducted by author Tanner Colby, which he recorded for the biographical book about the actor, are the primary basis of R.J. Cutler’s biographical documentary, Belushi.

Outside of a few sequences with animation, the documentary is wholly archival. Colby’s audio tapes are also on low-fi recordings of telephone conversations. This usually isn’t a problem for a biographical book, but several interviews can be difficult to understand. As a result, it can be a distraction in a film, and as the primary basis of the movie, it’s hard to tell the story of John Belushi if you can’t understand what the people are saying. Cutler also gives audiences a taste of Belushi’s chaotic energy through clips from his early work on Lemmings to his work on Blues Brothers. Even if those who know his story won’t be too surprised by what they see, it can still be thrilling to watch Belushi in action.

When Cutler doesn’t have any existing pictures or clips to accompany the story, he uses vector animation created by the exceptional Canadian animator, Robert Valley (Tron: Uprising). Valley illustrates Belushi’s childhood, his rise at Chicago’s Second City, as well as many other moments in his life. Cutler also uses letters that Belushi wrote to his wife. What starts as cute and touching letters to his high school sweetheart progressively spirals to cries for help. You can feel the hurt and pain when he writes about losing to his drug habit. One of the songs in Blues Brothers is “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” and one can’t help that the song is John’s way of crying for help.

Overall, Belushi to a poignant look at a man that inspired a bevy of comedians, and a documentary about John Belushi can’t touch upon the performer unless it touches upon the human being as well. He’s a man that has given the world so much laughter, despite his hidden battles. It’s a documentary that ends on a sad note, but it’s also a celebration of the joys that John Belushi gave to the world.

Rating: 4/5 atoms

Belushi premieres on SHOWTIME on Sunday, November 22 at 9/8c.

The post AFI FEST 2020: Belushi Review – Everybody Needs Somebody to Love appeared first on Nerd Reactor.

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