Brenda Kenneally was a journalism student when she began writing about her father the compulsive gambler and manic wanna be tough guy, whose friends aptly named, Fast Eddie. The same mental illness and addictive personality that made Fast Eddie a fascinating subject made him an absent father. Brenda's parents divorced when she was eight and Eddie would disappear for years at a time.
While on assignment for The New York Times, she discovered him living in the poverty stricken neighborhood she had been assigned to cover. Kenneally, acclaimed for her work on issues of inequality in The United States, set out to explore the role of class disparity in her own troubled childhood by filming the visits with her father during their reconciliation. Each session brings father and daughter, closer as the camera becomes part of their family and a bridge to repair both Brenda's and Fast Eddie's misspent youths. Kenneally, who writes about learning from the lives of her subjects, has to put this to the test very close to home. What begins as an indictment evolves visit by visit into devotion, reverence and love. In a Buddhist like paradox; the more detached she is as a journalist the more deeply she grows to appreciate her subject. Kenneally's camera lingers for hours, through cigarette after cigarette as, Fast Eddie's cathartic tales of his own childhood growing up in the 50's, his failed attempts at serving in the military, his battle with alcohol. Manic depression, compulsive gambling and weakness for broads, are far more endearing than they are damning.
Fast Eddie, approaching 70, when we meet him, has been the caregiver for his mentally ill girl friend of fifteen years. The irony of their platonic relationship, the most successful Fast Eddie, the one time playboy has ever had, is telling. The Irish Catholic childhood that pulls him to reconcile his life before it is too late is antagonist to Fast Eddie, the street hustler yearning, to go out in style. Issues of the temporal nature of masculinity are highlighted, as twenty-first century emotionally evolved Eddie laments never having been able to "grow up and be a man". Fast Eddie's moral battle against the flesh is pervasive. He loves cigarettes that are killing him, he loves Ann though they are not physical, and his psychiatrist says he is incapable of love, though his words and deeds reveal a kind and rare human being. Kenneally the journalist follows Kenneally the beautiful looser through the last five years of his life. According to Eddie, he has finally achieved stability; his first real job, a good balance of psyche meds, his long-term relationship with Ann and dinner in a restaurant once a week. By the time it all starts to unravel, we are convinced that the guy everybody called a looser maybe one of the most successful human being we know. This film is a testament to all who feel that their parents owe them something and the possibility of what that can be.
To see and read Brenda Ann Kenneally's earlier work about Fast Eddie visuramagazine.com/fast-eddie-brenda-ann-kenneally
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