REVIEW: ‘Valerie,’ The Documentary

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Valerie

“MISS TESSMACHER!” has become a meme of sorts. It’s a funny nod to the villainous Lex Luthor played by Gene Hackman in the late, great Richard Donner‘s Superman and Superman II. But there was always so much more to the character than the meme, whose performance by the multi-talented Valerie Perrine has endured in the superhero zeitgeist to such a degree that Eve Tessmacher, played now by Andrea Brooks, is now a character on the CW’s Supergirl.  And there is so much more to the life of the Oscar-nominated Perrine, who has a storied career in Hollywood and a moving and compelling personal story.

Stacey Souther’s Valerie explores the life of Valerie Perrine, detailing her rise to starhood and her health challenges later on in life. Interviewees include Jeff Bridges, Angie Dickinson, George Hamilton, Stacy Keach, Richard Donner, Loni Anderson, Andrea Brooks, and David Arquette. Jon Lee Brody, Aaron Harvey, and Oliver Ridge are producers, with Executive Producers David Arquette and Christina McLarty Arquette.

Souther’s presentation of Perrine’s life is visceral and unflinching. The narrative continually shifts from present-day, where we see her struggle with her health, to the past, showing how she became a name in Hollywood. It’s almost like we’re on a journey with her as she goes to the doctors to receive treatment while nostalgically reminiscing on what she used to do so easily. Over the course of just a half-hour, audiences will feel completely immersed in Valerie’s life. It’s an illuminating look at the struggles and pressures many actresses had to face in the 70s and onward and how she bucked the trend of what was acceptable and “proper” for her acting career and her lifestyle. In this, Souther effectively presents Perrine as a protagonist facing and, for the most part, defeating the challenges she has on the way.

With an amazing array of friends and acting colleagues, the documentary does a great job presenting a multi-faceted and complex view of Valerie Perrine. Friends like Bridges, Donner, Arquette, and others speak emphatically to her warmth and distinctiveness of personality, while newer contemporaries like Brooks express their admiration for her body of work. It’s an effective showcase of how friendships form in the oft-unforgiving Hollywood landscape and brings tremendous warmth to this documentary.

Interlaced through the documentary is Valerie dealing with Parkinson’s and essential tremor symptoms. Souther does a good job of showing her physical and mental pain while not making it something to repel from. It’s a part of life that many older people, including celebrities, go through, and it’s handled with depth and grace. Aging is natural, but it can also be painful. Despite her storied career, Valerie is like any of us in that regard, and the documentary builds tremendous empathy for her as it portrays her trying to cope with and accept her condition. In its unflinching look at this aspect of her life today, Valerie shines most. Even more so than nostalgic interludes of working on the Superman set, which is sure to have many fans in excitement. Ultimately, this documentary does a great job of presenting her as the relatable human the woman behind Eve Tessmacher is.

But there begs to be more exploration of the various facts of her life. Viewers will certainly look up more details on her career and overall life as the documentary inspires them. The quality of the documentary is impeccable, but I can’t help but wish it was longer and delved deeper into its subject matter. But for what we do have with Valerie, it remains a lovely and stirring look into the essential details of Perrine’s life that will leave that lasting impression.

Valerie is an overall fantastic documentary that hits the ground running in its exploration of its subject. Through superb interviews with Perrine, her friends, family, and contemporaries, it offers a wonderfully stirring look at this acclaimed actress, her joys, personal struggles, and contributions to the cinematic lexicon. Eve Tessmacher and the actress behind her were always so much more than a meme of Lex Luthor shouting at his assistant. With great depth and personality, Valerie effortlessly shows that for audiences watching.

Valerie is available July 16th on Vimeo on demand.

Valerie
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Valerie is an overall fantastic documentary that hits the ground running in its exploration of its subject. Through superb interviews with Perrine, her friends, family, and contemporaries, it offers a wonderfully stirring look at this acclaimed actress, her joys, personal struggles, and contributions to the cinematic lexicon. Eve Tessmacher and the actress behind her were always so much more than a meme of Lex Luthor shouting at his assistant. With great depth and personality, Valerie effortlessly shows that for audiences watching.