Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story Movie Review
Using animation, home movies and archive footage, we follow Izzard through his birth in 1962 to British parents who were working in Yemen, his early childhood in Northern Ireland and his youth in Wales and England. After being kicked out of university, he started performing comedy on the street, finally getting his big break in the 1990s, touring the world as a comic and becoming more famous in America as an actor. Along the way he discovers that past tragedies have inspired him to believe that he can be a stand-up, an actor or anything he wants to be.
The film is framed around Izzard's 2003 comeback after he was accused of recycling old jokes in his new show. Izzard deflates this with a couple of astute observations, leaving it feeling like a less-than-momentous chapter in his life, which makes us wonder why it's used as a framing device here. Another nagging problem is that the film was made by his ex-girlfriend, which questions the film's truthfulness.
But the material is assembled with a lively sense of humour that really catches Izzard's distinctive personality. Interviews with him over the years fill in the story, as does the remarkable video footage of his childhood and early performances at the Edinburgh Fringe and as a Covent Garden busker. And all of this adds up to an intriguingly well-rounded portrait of the man who notoriously came out as a transvestite on-stage during his first West End gig in 1993.
This event plays out with a terrific mix of humour and pathos, as do most of the scenes from his life. His overnight stardom clearly caught him off guard, as did the night when he won two Emmys. But it's his mother's death when he was only 6 that lingers in his mind and informs his self-image. This emotional aspect makes the film surprisingly involving as it reveals Izzard's passion, gifts and his determination to never take the easy route.