This documentary about Armistead Maupin is blazing with pure joy. It’s likely in the music, or the title cards, reflecting the character of the man himself.
Everyone is interesting, and I have choice words for people who say otherwise. Films in general lets its audience discover one more person we shouldn’t forget. And this certain ethos of cinema is more important because these innately interesting people have made contributions to the world. Especially the LGBT world, a world with a history that the mainstream world carelessly neglects. Maupin is one of those people. He chronicled the alternative LGBT people in 1970’s San Francisco through newspaper columns and books. That was before the mainstream associated the groups of people I mentioned with their home city.
Director Jennifer Kroot takes us from his beginnings as a Southern boy before he moved west. His ‘Tales of the City’ started out as a column in the San Francisco Chronicle. That evolved into a franchise that includes books and a groundbreaking, controversial TV series.
And what I said about everyone being interesting perfectly reflects Maupin’s philosophy. He brings characters that other writers have reduced to stereotypes. He wrote gay men who are not killers, sympathetic trans women, nuanced little people. They all belong to his world as they should on ours. His work paved the way for more inclusivity in artistic representation.
Kroot populates her film with the chorus of comedians, authors, and actors whose lives he touched. These talking heads include Laura Linney and Ian McKellen, reminiscing about their times with the man. Kroot’s final act has them reading a section of the series where a character comes out to his own mother. It’s a moment mixing triumph and empathy. A powerful echo where Maupin reaches out, appealing to love as he loves.