Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker

Hachette. Mar. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9780316415613. $29. FILM
With this candid memoir, Sonnenfeld (b. 1953) traces his journey from a troubled childhood to success as a sought-after filmmaker. Growing up in New York City, he contended with a philandering father, a neurotic mother (when Sonnenfeld was five, his father woke him up, asking him to talk his mother out of suicide), and a relative who sexually molested him. After graduating from film school, he worked as a cinematographer: first, briefly, on pornographic movies, then with the Coen brothers on Blood Simple and Raising Arizona. At the urging of producer Scott Rudin, Sonnenfeld agreed to direct The Addams Family—which launched a career that would include Get Shorty and three Men in Black features. Here, he mines scores of details, from the absurd to the mundane, painting a vivid picture of life on and off the set. A gifted storyteller, Sonnenfeld finds comedy in almost every situation—including his own pain. However, he turns serious, too, as he looks back on his dysfunctional upbringing. Above all, he stresses, anyone can overcome hurdles and thrive.
VERDICT While film enthusiasts will appreciate Sonnenfeld’s witty anecdotes, this self-deprecating memoir will also resonate with anyone seeking an inspirational story.

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