Show + Tell: Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins


We’re going to be doing a discussion of Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins on Wednesday night. If you have ever read any of Molly Ivins’s political commentary and analysis, then you probably already have the movie and its show time circled in red on your calendar (7:00 pm in the Music Hall Loft). She’s just that good and that funny! But because much of her career was spent lambasting the peculiar politics of Texas and the Texans who run it, you may not have heard about her. This documentary should cure that.

One of her books (of which I own two) is entitled Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She? And that title gets at one of the sources of her strength. She said things that other political and social commentators were too polite to say. And she said them in language that would take the bark off a scrub oak.

She got away with her notoriously scathing style because 1) she was really funny, and 2) the Texas legislators, who were her targets for much of her career, were too thick-headed to realize that her cutting remarks actually left them bleeding.

Ivins’s best stuff was aimed at the Texas old-boy network, and the movie captures the changes in the dialogue about gender and other issues from the late ’60s until her death in 2007. At least in Texas, it’s fair to say that she gave those changes a real boost.

We’ve been enjoying a run of amazing documentaries this year, some about larger-than-life characters (like David Crosby in Remember My Name and Aretha Franklin in Amazing Grace), ecological explorations (Biggest Little Farm), or festering scandals like Leaving Neverland. And one thing we’ve learned is that a good documentary always has an opinion. That’s especially true about Raise Hell. Molly Ivins was a progressive at heart. That’s pretty much a requirement when you’re writing about sexism, cronyism, corruption, and money in politics.

So, fair warning: people on one end of the political spectrum may more fully appreciate the humor and sentiments of this movie than those at the other end. (And I have enough faith in the political perspicacity of the film fans of the Seacoast that I don’t need to say more.)

With Telluride by the Sea heading our way like Moby Dick approaching the Pequod, I hope you’ll make time for this stimulating documentary about a political writer who’s finally getting (belated) credit for her political wisdom and her insight into the origins of the political mess we’re in now. Molly Ivins saw it coming. And she would have some really nasty, really hilarious things to say about it, if we were lucky enough to have her still around.

Paul Goodwin