What Are You Watching? ‘Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time’


Four out of 5 stars

By Connie Berry

When I was in college eons ago, I didn’t know anyone who hadn’t read Kurt Vonnegut. I loved his plainspeak way of writing. And when I tuned into “Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time” on Hulu over the weekend, I discovered that he wrote for his high school newspaper and said that experience was what led him to write concise stories. 

Brooks Robards wrote a review of this documentary when it was screening at the Film Center, and I thought then that I wanted to see it. The real beauty in this film is that it was produced by Robert Weide, who approached Vonnegut about the project decades ago, when the writer agreed to be the subject of the film. Over the years, the two men became great friends as Vonnegut opened up to the filmmaker. You’ll see old family photographs taken while Vonnegut was growing up in Indiana, as well as footage of the author at speaking engagements and while he was relaxing. You’ll hear his great laugh and watch while he lights Pall Mall after Pall Mall, talking about his siblings, his parents, and his time as a POW in Dresden during World War II. 

It’s an extraordinary look into Vonnegut’s world, and it features his grown children and a close look at his time living on Cape Cod. Like many writers before and since, this one had a complicated life filled with its share of pain and loss, but Vonnegut never loses his ability to laugh — sometimes at himself and sometimes because it seems better than the alternative. 

For anyone who can appreciate the slow going of creative writing, this documentary gives you hope. Vonnegut didn’t really receive the kind of recognition you could raise a large family on until later in his life. What sticks with me in the end, though, is his smoky laughter.