Arguably the most adorable — and adored — of “Saturday Night Live’s” cast members, the late Gilda Radner is the subject of the poignant “Love, Gilda,” a stirring valentine of a documentary by Lisa D’Apolito.
Told extensively in the first person via newly-discovered audiotapes that formed the basis of Radner’s 1989 autobiography “It’s Always Something,” the film reveals the nagging bouts of inadequacy residing just behind the delightful characters Judy Miller and Roseanne Roseannadanna.
Growing up a chubby girl in Detroit (her mother put her on Dexedrine diet pills at age 10), Radner discovered the value of comedy as a way of preempting the hurtful words of others, and it would become a weapon she’d keep close at her side.
While it appeared that Radner would have the last laugh — dating a string of famous, funny guys, Martin Short, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd among them, winning an Emmy Award and triumphing in her own one-woman Broadway show — as her journals reveal, along with the fame came deep loneliness and self-doubt, manifested in a battle with bulimia.
Tragically, just as she turned a life-affirming corner with her marriage to soul mate Gene Wilder, Radner was diagnosed with the ovarian cancer that would take her life at age 42.
“Laughter — that’s what hugs me and holds me,” she confides on those muddy cassettes. So does the warm, tender embrace of “Love, Gilda.”
Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes