Wrestling With Angels

Rated NR 2006

Tony Kushner, behind round-rimmed glasses, is so assuredly charismatic throughout Freida Lee Mock's documentary portrait that the admission that he finds writing painfully difficult seems incongruous. It's hard to intuit doubt from this steady, admiring treatment of the leftist activist playwright. Divided into three acts and an epilogue, Wrestling With Angels opens under the heading "As a Citizen of the World After September 11, 2001." Kushner recounts flying home from a beach in Ireland and entering Manhattan in a taxicab. The driver, seeing him weep, begins to weep too. It's a chain of sympathy taken for granted in the film. Kushner came out at 20 after being granted "permission" through psychotherapy. His father, a temperate presence, speaks of sharing typical masculine activities with the child Tony -- like bird-watching ("hunting without hurting anything"). With footage of Kushner works and appearances by Larry Kramer, George C. Wolfe, and Meryl Streep, the film feels unbounded by its time frame (the World Trade Center attacks through the 2004 election). Its subject, who declares that he wants to be a popular entertainer, is large and continuous.

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