Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself is about journalist, editor, boxer, quarterback, aerialist, stand up comic, and perennial talk show guest George Plimpton, who pioneered the field of participatory journalism. Instead of reporting on events, he would take part himself. Regularly throwing himself into mortal danger to better understand his subjects, his articles and books gave readers an inside look into worlds they could only fantasize about.
Known as a professional dabbler, Plimpton didn’t lead an extraordinary life; he lived several. Despite his many accomplishments and a spectacularly extensive network of friends, the real Mr. Plimpton remains a mystery. In many ways, he is a cipher allowing his readers and those around him to imprint onto him what they want. Co-writers and directors Tom Bean and Luke Poling attempt to give us a sense of his inner life in Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself.
“…George Plimpton…pioneered the field of participatory journalism.”
The filmmakers utilize first-hand accounts from George Plimpton as well as interviews with friends, family, and colleagues to trace his life. Starting with Plimpton’s childhood as an American aristocrat, to his failed academic career, becoming a founding editor of the Paris Review, a successful career in journalism, and finally, his near-complete saturation of the talk show circuit and commercial television, Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself isn’t just a needlessly unwieldy title. No, it is an exhaustive, if uneven, account of the famous writer’s life.
This is less a documentary and more of a eulogy. Full disclosure, I am a fan of Plimpton’s work. His wit and eloquence were part of the reason I ever considered writing anything. Yet, despite the fact that I have built unto him a shrine where I prostrate myself regularly in abject adoration of his divine presence, I thought the documentary went a little overboard in their praise.
"…Plimpton didn't lead an extraordinary life; he lived several."