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Review: A 40-year passion project, ‘Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time’ is worth your attention

A black-and-white photo of a man in a sweater and blazer and glasses on a couch, write, and a blurry man, left
Robert Weide, left, and Kurt Vonnegut in Weide’s “Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time.”
(C. Minnick/B Plus Productions/IFC Films)

The Times is committed to reviewing theatrical film releases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because moviegoing carries risks during this time, we remind readers to follow health and safety guidelines as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials.

Some 40 years in the making, the remarkable “Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time” is a gorgeously rendered, unexpectedly moving appraisal of the life and craft of one of the best-loved literary voices of the late 20th century.

Borrowing its title and structural cue from Vonnegut’s 1969 breakthrough novel, “Slaughterhouse-Five,” in which the past, present and future are uniquely intertwined for protagonist Billy Pilgrim, the production takes a nonlinear approach to its subject matter.

While touching upon professional and personal triumphs and tragedies, the film also tracks the burgeoning, touching friendship between Vonnegut and co-director Robert B. Weide, who first pitched the project to Vonnegut back in 1982 when he had a single production credit to his name — a PBS documentary about the Marx Brothers.

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The two would conduct increasingly informal chats over the subsequent decades, but following Vonnegut’s death in 2007, it would take another 14 years to bring the expansive project to fruition, partly due to Weide’s day jobs (notably serving as principal director and executive producer of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”).

But there was also a degree of reluctance involved for Weide, who periodically addresses the camera, conceding that maybe by finishing the film, “it acknowledged that he’s gone.”

With co-director Don Argott (“The Art of the Steal”) instrumental in shaping interviews with Vonnegut contemporaries and family members, and terrific archival footage into a cohesive, seamless whole, Weide’s pet project serves as an affecting tribute to the man who learned, like Billy Pilgrim, that the meaning of life amounted to being “trapped in the amber of the moment.”

For the two-plus hours that we are allowed to share in its protective glow, “Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time” is time most rewardingly spent.

'Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time'

Not rated

Running time: 2 hours, 6 minutes

Playing: Starts Nov. 19, Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; also on VOD


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