Review: Bissinger documentary ‘Buzz’ explores writer’s desires in scattershot focus

Buzz Bissinger, ‘Buzz’
Buzz Bissinger in the documentary “Buzz.”
(Christian Anwander / HBO)

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and “Friday Night Lights” author H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger has made a well-earned name for himself in the world of journalism. But in the concerted effort of his filmmaker friend Andrew Shea to turn the high-powered writer and professed leather-fetishizing cross-dresser into a poster figure for all things gender questioning, the scattershot documentary “Buzz” fumbles the identity-politics ball.

The movie covers a recent year or so when Bissinger was celebrating the 25th anniversary of “Friday Night Lights” with updated material and a book tour, working with Caitlyn Jenner on her memoir (after writing her famous Vanity Fair coming-out story), and grappling with a third marriage straining under the behavioral/financial chaos of his quest for his authentic sexual self. (Leather is expensive, and when does seeing a dominatrix officially become cheating?) A bulldog personality with painted nails who’s energized by Jenner’s be-yourself example even as he interacts with her during writing sessions as if they’re snapping towels in a locker room, Bissinger’s professed internal struggles play less like “Who am I?” and more like “Hey, look over here!”

When the focus is his marriage — with wife Lisa a sympathetic figure confused by what their relationship exactly is — “Buzz” hints at emotional complexity. But there’s a sour narcissism to this white, successful, talented man that smacks of a bid for hot-topic relevance rather than a model for how the unseen and uncertain can find peace and acceptance.

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

Playing: Starts Sept. 20, Laemmle Glendale; debuts Sept. 25 on HBO.

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