Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins

Before I even start out discussing the film in question for this review, I want to ask you something directly related to the source material. There is a particular scene within this film that makes the statement along the lines of I bet you could name quite a lot of television journalists. For the major population, I would gather that statement is indeed a true fact. Names like Barbara Walters, Dan Rather, Anderson Cooper, or Diane Sawyer come to mind. The list is probably even longer than that. Though, the statement which follows dares the audience to name a print journalist of notoriety. Can you do it? Go ahead, I’ll wait. The body of the article will still be waiting to be read once you find an answer. Did you do it?

The short answer is there is little to no influential journalists within the print medium. However, one name reigned supreme throughout the 70s, 80, 90s and even early 2000s. Perhaps there are some of you that may or may not know the name of Molly Ivins. Ms. Ivins focused much of her talents towards politics. She quickly gained a reputation for being blunt and straight with people on subjects. Some people truly hated her for it, some people loved her for it and some people had no idea what on God’s green earth to do with her. She was talented but didn’t want to be confide to any rules, boxes or limits. That’s kind of attitude which garners the completely appropriate name for her documentary, Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins.

Molly was a proud Texan woman who didn’t care what people thought of her. The film is honest in its’ delivery of who Molly Ivins was as a person. One of the strongest factors to this documentary was its brilliant use of context. With the majority of its foundation focusing on what Texas is like now, what it was like growing up in the 1950s for Molly and her siblings, the civil rights movement, racism and more. The film manages to educate the atmosphere of Ivins before predominantly jumping into her fantastic career. Throughout its narrative, the subject and impact of Ivins is unforgettable. She was such a profound woman and the documentary carries that brilliantly. It’s use of the archive C-Span interviews with Ivins shaping the narrative is a thing of pure delight and genius.

As brilliant as Ivins was and as brilliant as this documentary is, the narrative isn’t always as smart as it would like to be. The full engrossment of culture seems to come to a smooth stop when the film fully dedicates itself to Ivins. However in the transition between the film’s second and third act, it feels the need to reintroduce that trademark. Some ways it feels like its planning catch-up. In the midst of playing catch-up, it also manages to falter from its narrative. It’s never as smooth as it wants to be.


Overall, Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, is an incredibly compelling documentary. From its total engrossment of Texan culture, the civil rights movement and the increasing politic culture of the 1980s – Raise Hell manages to balance a dual narrative from its center subject to the world around her with ease. Director Janice Engel marvelously catches the soul of the source material in the rebellious Molly Ivins. Managing not only to tell her story flawlessly but to also sets a motion picture in the vein of Ivins herself. The narrative begins to falter a little bit towards the tail end of the movie. Playing catch-up rather than continuously staying on target. Perhaps it was trying to imitate its subject in her drunkenness. Still, Raise Hell, is a continuously engaging and relevant film.


And more importantly, if you or someone you know is struggling with suicide, addiction, self-harm or depression - please free feel to reach out. Use any our resources, call the suicide lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or text 741-741.

Credits: Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins is property of Magnolia Pictures. We do not own nor claim any rights. This is an official selection of Lost Weekend XII.