Why we need Roger Ebert

By Melissa Hardiman

By Melissa Hardiman

A personal life force. That is what Roger Ebert said.

“Nine to Five” is a good-hearted, simple-minded comedy that will win a place in film history, I suspect, primarily because it contains the movie debut of Dolly Parton. She is, on the basis of this one film, a natural-born movie star, a performer who holds our attention so easily that it’s hard to believe it’s her first film.

There have been other debuts this unmistakable; you could name Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, John Travolta. And what you’d be talking about in each case would not necessarily be a great dramatic performance in an important movie. You’d be talking about a quality of presence, a personal life force that seems to take over the screen.

 Roger Ebert is one of my gurus, and perhaps you would do well to visit his teachings too. Who else would pick these elements from a John Travolta movie about an angel?

Michael’s previous visits to Earth have been eventful. On one of them, he explains, “I invented standing in line.” Learning that the three visitors are reporters, he says, “I’m a writer, too.” “What did you write?” they ask. “Psalm 85. Of course, they weren’t numbered then.”

He describes John Travolta’s character in Phenomenon.

This is a good role for Travolta, who has an underlying sweetness and enthusiasm that is well used here. There’s not an ounce of circumspection in his character, and when he gets his unexpected gift, he wants to share it.

If you value sincerity, look at Mr. Ebert’s reviews of your favorite films. They inspire.

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