RAISE HELL: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins tells the story of media firebrand Molly Ivins, six feet of Texas trouble who took on the Good Old Boy corruption wherever she found it. Her razor-sharp wit left both sides of the aisle laughing, and craving ink in her columns. She knew the Bill of Rights was in peril, and said “Polarizing people is a good way to win an election and a good way to wreck a country.” Molly’s words have proved prescient. Now it’s up to us to raise hell!
Who was Molly Ivins? She was a big-boned, 6 foot tall, larger than life Texan who made a name for herself as a sharp-witted, Democratic, political commentator and writer and the subject of the new documentary Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins. Why yes, I did use democrat and Texan in the same descriptive sentence. Ivins was, without question, a powerfully willed and sharply witted lady that lived a storied and wonderful life in journalism that makes for not just a rollicking documentary, but an inspiring one at that.
Documentarian Janice Engel starts the film by introducing us to Ivins’ special brand of wit and political commentary through a series of fast-paced appearances on the likes of The David Letterman Show and in presentations at Berkley. “I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.” Ivins quips.
“…without question, a powerfully willed and sharply witted lady that lived a storied and wonderful life in journalism…”
We then start at the beginning of her life, going back to her upbringing in a well-off Republican household. Her father, an oil man, tinted her early views on politics with his recalled discussions on how to fix the price of oil and the snits he would get into when Molly brought African Americans over to swim in the family pool. Her rebellious streak and sense of justice were to become hallmarks as she forged against the conventions both in her career as a journalist and her point of view as a Democratic Texan.
The doc keeps thing bold and boisterous as we get line after line of Molly’s incomparable wit from family and friends recalling stories to actual interviews. The most endearing theme that runs through Raise Hell is the respect that Ivins garnered from both sides of the aisle and the candor with which Engel approaches her subject. Imperfections are embraced and celebrated as challenges to be heartily dealt with.
“…we see her final moments, fighting every step of the way with family and friends…”
Of course, we know that Molly passed away January 31st, 2007 after years of battling breast cancer. This is about the point you would think she would quiet down, give up, or otherwise disappear. No, we see her final moments, fighting every step of the way with family and friends continuing to recall her indomitable spirit and point of view.
In the end, Raise Hell is the true celebration of the Texas spirit or rather, America on steroids as one commentator words it. Ivins respectfully, yet unapologetically went for her targets as she called them with a savage with and a colorful life that makes for an entertaining watch. She was an outspoken political animal that encouraged discussion and broke down walls with humor and healthy amounts of beer. To this reviewer, I’d say we need Molly’s presence now more than ever, or at least her attitude.
“The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion.” – Molly Ivins
Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins (2019) Written and directed by Janice Engel. Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins screened at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, the 2019 SXSW Film Festival, and the 2019 San Francisco International Film Festival.
7 out of 10 stars