(director: Richard Dewey; editors: Brian Gersten, Jason Mann; music: Alex Mansour; cast: Michael Lewis, Gay Talese, Gail Sheehy, Alexandra Wolfe, Tom Junod, Emily Witt, Niall Ferguson, Lynn Nesbit, Terry McDonnel, Christopher Buckley, Jon Hamm; Runtime: 76; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Richard Dewey, Andy Fortenbacher, Chris Laszlo; Kino Lorber; 2023)

“Even if doing Wolfe justice, it does not capture his unique stylish writing ability.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A competent by-the-numbers biopic, done in a staid straightforward manner about the unconventional, brilliant author, Tom Wolfe. Unfortunately, even if doing Wolfe justice, it does not capture his unique stylish writing ability.

Richard Dewey
(“Burden”) directs the first film on the great iconic journalist Tom Wolfe, who died at the age of 88 in 2018. He shows us that Wolfe led a life filled with curiosity, spirit and audacity. Wolfe was known for wearing white suits.

John Hamm narrates.

The film chronicles Wolfe’s colorful life from a beat reporter at the Washington Post to his role as the leader of the New Journalism movement. He wrote such diverse cultural stories as The Right Stuff, Radical Chic, The Bonfire of the Vanities and A Man in Full.

Using a 2015 Vanity Fair article by the writer Michael Lewis, it tracks the writer’s conservative upbringing in Virginia. There are also interviews with Lewis and Wolfe’s peers of New Journalism (Hunter S. Thompson, Joan Didion, Norman Mailer and
Gay Talese).

Using television interviews from archival footage, Dewey tracks Wolfe down as a keen observer and unabashed critic of American society, a writer who had the ability to bridge class divides while writing impactful stories on the American society in the 20th century.

Dewey revisits Wolfe’s New York Magazine piece, “Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s.” It’s an upsetting article telling of Leonard Bernstein’s 1970 fund-raiser for the Panther 21, whereby the composer is mocked for his phony radicalism.

Though the film failed to excite me, I was taken in by how it conveyed Wolfe’s ability to comment on
America’s dark path it took in the 20th century. Also, that he coined the term “The Me Decade” when describing his vision for America.