Movie Review: Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins

A portrait of a writer who persisted in calling ‘em as she saw ‘em.

Not rated. Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.

Should a newspaper writer be allowed to say things that might inflame some readers? Syndicated columnist editor Molly Ivins, who passed away in 2007, fanned flames constantly throughout her life. Her fearlessness was matched only by her sense of humor, and both are ably honored in Janice Engel’s inspiring documentary Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, which comes down on the side of freedom of expression. Always feeling Othered because she was 6’ and not traditionally beautiful, proud Texas native and even prouder liberal Ivins got a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. After stints in New York and Paris, she returned to Texas, which she loved enough to be honest about. And not just Texas: It was a grave sin in early 1990s liberal culture to criticize Bill Clinton, but she dared to do just that, much to her editors’ chagrin. (It’s a classic conflict: cf. Kael v. Shawn at The New Yorker, Schrader v. Kunkin at the Los Angeles Free Press, and many other, far stupider examples.) Ivins died in 2007, but she’d collected her writings in the 1991 book Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?, a title which would be self-aggrandizing from anyone else. But Ivins earned it, and the rest of us can only aspire to raise as much hell.

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