Film Review: MIKE WALLACE I HERE (USA 2019) ***1/2 Directed by Avi Belkin

Mike Wallace Is Here Poster
Trailer

A look at the career of ’60 Minutes’ newsman, Mike Wallace.

Director:

Avi Belkin

Documentaries have have often than not, had famous subjects who are talented, who have made a difference in doing good or mankind or those who have changed the course of history.  The new doc directed by Avi Belkin has a different kind fo subject – an obnoxious interviewer that may people did not like.  Mike Wallace is rude, plain nasty and not a very likeable person when he is in front of the camera interviewing people.  Wallace does his best to put his ‘victims’ on the spot by his questions,  to his credit and his team have done the research to dig up the dirt on the interviewee and thus enabling Wallace to do his nastiest best.
The doc follows the identical path of most documentaries.  They go far back to the subject’s childhood, what influenced them to become the persons they are, chart their rise to fame followed often by some tragic downfall and their redemption, if they do succeed in recovering from their fall from grace.
The doc goes back to Wallace when he was a child back in 1937.  His mother was strict and his father was an honest man.  How they affected Wallace is left untouched.  But the film then flashes the photographs of the celebrities that he interviewed in his lifetime.  These include Barbra Streisand, Kirk Douglas, Richard Nixon, Shirley MacLaine, and political leaders like Ayotollah Komeinini, Richard Nixon, Anwar Sadat, Vladimir Putin among others.  Later on in the film, there are footages of more details of these interviews. 
 Among the film’s best segments, Wallace asks mobster Mickey Cohen how many people  he’s killed and ’80s era Donald Trump if he sees politics in his future.  He challenges movie stars (Shirley MacLaine, Barbra Streisand – both telling Wallace what they think of him), politicians (Richard Nixon, Vladimir Putin) and unexpected sorts like the Imperial Wizard of the KKK.  
Sometimes colleagues interview Wallace, who talks about his bouts of depression (which he hid) and the death of his son.
 The film also covers two incidents that rocked the journalism world.  (1) A 1982 libel lawsuit filed against CBS and Wallace by retired U.S. Army Gen. William Westmoreland.  (2) A 1996 pushback when CBS’s corporate side tried to kill a story about tobacco industry whistleblower Dr. Jeffrey Wigand .
The film succeeds in giving audiences a slice of CBS history as well as demonstrate how important an interviewer can be in disseminating information to the public.
The magic question after watching the doc is whether Mike Wallace is a good person.  His interviewees say to him: ” “You don’t have to prove yourself.”  “You are good at what you do.”  When Shirley Maclaine confesses to believing in E.T.s, Wallace jokes that the E.T.s could have met her on her porch, Maclaine tells him: “You don’t have to be this unpleasant, this does not become you.”  The last statement clearly answers that magic question.  And Stresand tells him off; “You put all this toughness in this facade…”   Director Belkin tries to elicit some sympathy for the man with the segment of how he had lost his son.  But the tragedy should have made Wallace a better more considerate man and not the unpleasant interviewer that he had made himself a name of.
MIKE WALLACE is interesting and entertaining enough as a documentary questioning the integrity of the media while confirming the fact what kind of person the man really is.  Director Belkin has made a likeable (and insightful) documentary on a very unlikeable man.
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDSq2fF9flk
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