Documentary Review: A Broad, Diffuse Grasp at “Gratitude Revealed”

“Gratitude Revealed” is a feel-good documentary from the director of “Fantastic Fungi,” a broad, random collection of “grateful” people ranging from the somewhat famous to the not-really-famous stringing together empty platitudes about appreciating what you have, the miracle of life, and how the good vibes you send out shine back in your direction.

It made my eyes roll. It made my teeth ache. It made me remember the most productive place to grow fungi — a mountain of BS.

Too harsh? Let’s sample some of what piles up in Louie Schwartzberg’s squishy, insipid TED Talk on the “feels.”

Here’s Jason Silva, “storyteller, “futurist,” TV presenter and double-talker par excellence.

“When I think about connections, I think about intersubjectivity, I think about the human capacity to pierce beyond the veil of individuation and to enter the ‘holy other,’ to blast new tunnels between the mind and ‘the other!.”

No, Jason. For the last time, I don’t WANT the extended warranty.

Then there’s pastor and author Michael Beckwith — “Gratitude is an attitude and a vibrated altitude that we live in.”

Philanthropist (“rich”) and activist Lynne Twist breaks down “gratefulness” as “the great FULLness of our lives.”

Schwartzberg’s movie is 81 minutes of pretty pictures, precocious kids, bits of gorgeous scenery and all sorts of folk talking all the way around that American Thanksgiving table staple, “What’re we grateful for.” A few centerpiece interviews try to zero in on the nebulous nature of gratitude, wandering off into all sorts of detours (“community,” “beauty” etc.) because once somebody’s printed the fortune cookie and then the T-shirt “The Great FULLness of our lives,” what else is there to say?

Schwartzberg appears in his film a lot, beginning with a ritualistic (not really) making of “tea with lemon” so he can point out that his parents survived the Holocaust. He transitions into interviews with TV legend Norman Lear, film producer Brian Grazer, author Jack Kornfield, blind mountain climber Erik Weihenmayer and Silva, and finally Deepak Choprah shows up, right on cue.

Because what onanistic film flitting through “mindfulness” would be complete without the gibbering DC? And even the filmmaker, who normally works in time-lapse photography taking extreme-closeups of the wonders of nature, had to realize, “Wait, I’m talking to a lot of rich white guys and gurus, and most of them are Jewish.”

Schwartzberg goes on to hang with dancing cliff aerialists and track skateboarders thrill-racing down mountains. We meet this Louisiana bluesman and that African American preacher, author Luisah Teish and chef Rick Bayless, grateful to have come along during the foodie epoch among the well-heeled.

And what emerges is more a “feeling” than a narrative, more a sensation (irritation, in my case) than cinema, and more BS than your average performative, bubbly and empty TED talk held in a stockyard.

At least the fungi will feel at home.

Rating: unrated

Cast: Norman Lear, Jason Silva, Deepak Choprah, Jack Kornfield, Brian Grazer, Lynne Twist, Rick Bayless, Christine Carter, Erik Weihenmayer, Luisah Teish, and Louie Schwartzberg.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Louie Schwartzberg. An Area 23a release.

Running time: 1:21

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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