Being Mary Tyler Moore, a charming documentary directed by James Adolphus, aims to peek under the smile. We catch a glimpse of her sorrows and frustrations, of disappointments and deaths (and, yes, of that stinker where she played a nun who swoons for Elvis). But the film itself is so smitten by Moore that it skips over the worst of her self-inflected wounds. Like, for instance, Moore’s discussion in her book of when she’d get drunk and play Russian roulette with her car before eventually embracing sobriety, and, with it, the relief of confessing her flaws.
Fair enough. There’s plenty to talk about simply touring Moore’s career, although plaudits from Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Reese Witherspoon are merely quick hits of celebrity glitz. The film is structured by archival footage of two television interviews with Moore. The first, from 1966, is sexist and condescending. The second, conducted 15 years later, is empathetic and probing. Between them, Moore had reshaped how women were treated on the small screen.