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‘Sr.’ review: Robert Downey Jr. cares for his late father in intimate Netflix documentary

 




CNN

At the end of Sr., a documentary so personal the word intimate almost doesn’t do it justice, Robert Downey Jr. reflects on what his 90-minute ode to his father really was. The simple, celebrity-stripped answer is the painful process of saying goodbye to an aging and increasingly crippled parent, filtered through the careers of these two artists.

Downey Jr.’s fame obviously eclipsed his father’s in terms of recognition and popular footprint, thanks to an unlikely comeback with the role of Iron Man in 2008, and everything since.

Yet, as he is quick to point out, and director Chris Smith ably illustrates, Downey Sr. made his own unique contributions to culture as an underground filmmaker, appearing as a guest to talk about his work. on the Dick Cavetts show, and garnering the kind of prestige that allowed him to jump from one low-budget project to the next.

Downey Jr. was an occasional actor as a child in his father’s films, and later questions his uneasy father about their common excesses with drug use and the extent to which the permissiveness of the elderly man could have influenced his son. It’s a conversation Downey Sr. clearly doesn’t like to have, although their interaction throughout has been one of warmth, forgiveness and love, and if there have been any doubts or recriminations about the way to make that peace, you won’t find it here.

For all its emotional aspects, with Downey Jr. sitting by his father’s bedside before his death last year, Sr. (a title the elder thinks he could improve on) is equally playful and fun, incorporating the theme of A Summer Place. to take audiences back to Downey Sr.’s golden age, when he directed films such as Putney Swope and Chafed Elbows.

Part of that has to do with the elder Downey’s tongue-in-cheek responses when discussing his films, such as when he asked if people gave them a broader meaning. Oh my god, I hope not, he’s deadpan.

Downeys’ younger resume also figures prominently in the narrative, bringing to mind early breakout roles like Less Than Zero, in which he played a drug addict, as a sort of omen for trouble to come.

Shot over three years, the film captures the physical decline of Downey Sr. as he endures the ravages of Parkinson’s disease. Stripped to its core, however, Sr. is a highly identifiable portrait of family and the feeling that even when a parent dies in the 80s, the loss and grief are hard on those left behind.

I will miss him, Downey Jr. said after visiting the old man with his own young son, Exton.

Looking at Sr., even those who have never seen one of his movies or know a lot about this showbiz family beyond the armored heroics might miss him a little too.

Sr. premieres December 2 on Netflix.

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