‘Running from Crazy’ is Essential Link in Hemingway Legacy

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CHICAGO – If you thought the end of the story was the suicide of famed author Ernest “Papa” Hemingway in 1961, then you never paid attention to the fate of the generations down the line bearing his name. Granddaughter Mariel Hemingway seeks her own truth among the tragedy of her family’s legacy in the redemptive “Running from Crazy.”

Mariel Hemingway is an Oscar nominated actress, for her role as a teenager in the classic Woody Allen film, “Manhattan.” She is an earnest professional, but behind that mask was a four generation curse of depression, substance abuse and suicide. There is a point the film in which Mariel must wear some symbolic necklaces for the losses from those in her family taking their own lives. She selects one color for her sister Margaux, and six more for the other family members. Her burden is achingly revealed in this flawlessly structured documentary by veteran filmmaker Barbara Kopple. Using archival footage – including revealing 1980s video and audio of Margaux trying to understand her own truth – the film captures the Hemingway family that is left behind from the ruins of past ghosts.

Mariel Hemingway is an advocate for health – physical, spiritual and mental – but she has never publicly spoken about the darkness surrounding the Hemingway name. Using the film as a journey, she tells her story, surrounded by her father Jack (the oldest son of Ernest Hemingway), her mother Byra Louise and her older sisters Joan (nicknamed “Muffet”) and Margaux. Mariel made her debut film with Margaux, entitled “Lipstick” (1976).

Mariel Hemingway
Mariel Hemingway Reflects on Her Life in ‘Running from Crazy
Photo credit: OWN

Besides living with the name, Mariel also lives with the unique atmosphere of depression that permeates the Hemingways. Her parents had a sad and broken marriage, her sisters suffered from various bouts of mental illness. Margaux – who at one point was the highest paid model in the world – committed suicide one day shy of the 35th anniversary her grandfather’s famous exit. “Running from Crazy” is an ironic title, as Mariel actually runs toward it.

If there is one lesson to be learned from these fateful episodes, is that “the truth will set you free.” Mariel Hemingway faces the truth, both in the past and present – there is an amazing scene in which she reunites with her oldest sister Muffet, who lives in a halfway house due to her condition. The camera follows her to that place, and she discusses her guilt regarding both her sisters, as she fears that reunion with the oldest. It turns out to joyful, and blessedly freeing.

Veteran filmmaker and Oscar winner Barbara Kopple (“American Dream”) constructs a virtuous understanding of the family’s difficulties. Her use of the 1980s documentary that Margaux created is astonishing. It exposes the raw wounds of the family mental health history encapsulated in one person, because Margaux had a moment of clarity and was able to capture it on video. The archival footage also collects the Hemingway misfortunes, because virtually their whole family history is on film or tape – Papa Hemingway’s funeral, news archives of his adventures, Mariel’s early stardom and reports of Margaux’s suicide.

Also unburied is the torture of Jack Hemingway. An ardent environmentalist and outdoorsman in their home state of Idaho, Jack lived with the harsh reality of being Papa’s oldest son. He becomes a fascinating and specter-like presence in the whole history, and the scene where he talks about his famous father is more interesting as to what it doesn’t reveal. Mariel talks about Jack and her mother’s nightly ‘wine time,” which quickly devolves into a substance circumstance.

Margaux Hemingway, Mariel Hemingway
Margaux Hemingway (left) and Sister Mariel in a Scene from ‘Lipstick,’ featured in ‘Running from Crazy
Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

Mariel Hemingway is heroic in this film. She allowed an incident of her breaking down to be shown, which uncovered a bit of truth regarding her current relationship. There are points in the documentary when she talks to her daughters Dree and Langley (who have both taken on the Hemingway name) about their souls, and even brings in her ex-husband (and the girls’ Dad) for exploration. She walks through the graves of Papa – marked with the admirer leavings of liquor bottles and image souvenirs – her mother, her father and finally Margaux. On her sister’s marker is the phrase, “Free Spirit Freed.”

This is an indispensable film on the subject of mental health and suicide. Mariel uses her name and her celebrity to uncover her truth. That courage can inspire others to face their own delicate and harshly hidden truths about mental illnesses or suicide in their family tree. “Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

“Running from Crazy” continues its limited release in Chicago on November 15th. See local listings for theaters and show times. Featuring Mariel Hemingway. Produced by Oprah Winfrey. Directed by Barbara Kopple. Not Rated. For the HollywoodChicago.com interview of Mariel Hemingway, including some insights regarding “Running from Crazy,” click here.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Senior Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2013 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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