Brad Garrett in Gleason (2002)

Garrett on Gleason

Let's be honest most biopics suck whether they are made for TV or not because either they are too much of a homage to someone making them out to be a saint or they are the complete opposite showing just a one sided arrogant portrayal of someone. But they do this for a reason because it makes for entertainment even if at the same time it is likely to annoy and even upset those who watch for some sort of realistic portrayal of a favourite actor, singer or what ever.

That brings me to "Gleason" the 2002 made for TV biopic starring Brad Garrett as the comic icon. Now I am not a huge Jackie Gleason fan, I've watched a fair few things he was in but being a Brit born in the 1970s I wasn't even around when he was starring in the likes of "The Honeymooners". Despite this "Gleason" was still entertaining which is very much what I was hoping for with Garrett impressing to capture many of Gleason's mannerisms. But even as someone who isn't a huge fan the flaws in the movie are apparent with a cliche structure and a jarring narrative which distracts from Garrett's performance.

Saul Rubinek in Gleason (2002)

Now as I said "Gleason" has a jarring narrative and to give you an example during the opening credits we have Gleason being interviewed then it jumps back to 1955 and behind the scenes of "The Honeymooners" which ends up being the anchor of the story as it then jumps back to 1924, 1942 and so on. It ends up constantly flicking from different periods but with no flow, we don't have something in 1955 then being explained by events in the past it just flits between periods which makes it messy. I know why they did this as it is a style used in so many biopics but the two time periods need to work together in a cause and affect way and this misses the point completely.

Despite this the various events it covers are interesting from the cliche of Jackie's parents being arguing alcoholics to his abandonment of his first wife and child when Hollywood came calling. Much of it feels cliche such as a scene which establishes how as a child the young Gleason became enamoured with performers and applause but we also get quite a harsh portrayal of Gleason himself. This is definitely a movie which whilst paying credit to Gleason as a great comic also shows him as an egotistical performer, hard work to direct, a drunk and a lot more. It's because of this that "Gleason" is not going to be for everyone especially by showing the darker side of Jackie Gleason means that you don't get the emotion just a portrayal of a man hell bent on having it his way.

Now I could go on and mention things such as the direction being ordinary and how those in supporting roles don't get much chance to establish character but these are the same faults you will find in so many biopics and not just made for TV biopics. But the thing which "Gleason" has going for it is Brad Garrett who delivers a very good portrayal of Jackie Gleason especially one which is less about his comic ability but more about the demons. At times Garrett looks surprisingly right but he also gets the mannerisms right which is a big part of the battle and because of such it is Garrett's performance which keeps you watching more than anything.

What this all boils down to is that "Gleason" is entertaining thanks mainly to a good performance from Brad Garrett. But at the same time it is very much a standard made for TV biopic which sticks to a formula and style used in so many biopics which means it won't please the biggest Jackie Gleason fans.