Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth

Watch Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth

"A documentary about the comic who invented controversy."
  • 1998
  • 1 hr 40 min
  • 7.9  (603)

Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth is a 1998 biopic that shines light on the real-life story of Lenny Bruce, a comedian who lived a controversial and groundbreaking life. The movie is directed by Robert B. Weide and stars Robert De Niro as the narrator, Steve Allen, and Honey Bruce Friedman. The film gives a riveting insight into Bruce's life, his struggles, his groundbreaking achievements, and the ultimate price he paid for his freedom of speech.

The movie is structured around interviews of those who knew Bruce personally, combined with archival footage of his performances. It gives viewers a glimpse into Bruce's childhood, his early days in the Navy, and his burgeoning stand-up career. Bruce's humor was often laced with social commentary that went beyond the boundaries of acceptable comedy at the time. He was not just about delivering punch-lines, but also meant to make a statement and address complex social issues such as civil rights and free speech.

As Bruce's fame grew, he found himself constantly pushing the boundaries of what was considered acceptable, which ultimately led to his frequent arrests on obscenity charges. However, to Bruce, his comedy represented a form of artistic expression and free speech, and he refused to back down despite mounting legal troubles, which eventually led to his being blacklisted and his downfall as a performer.

One of the highlights of the movie is the collection of past interviews with fellow comedians and entertainers such as Richard Pryor, Mort Sahl, Paul Krassner, and Dick Gregory, who were all fans and admirers of his work. They share hilarious and poignant anecdotes about Bruce's life and the impact he had on them.

Another standout moment is the sequence in which Bruce shares his stage with his mother, played by Honey Bruce Friedman, where they perform a routine together that is both touching and funny. The relationship between Bruce and his mother is explored throughout the film, as it played a pivotal role in his life and career.

Steve Allen, who is portrayed in the movie by himself, was one of the first supporters of Bruce, and he plays a significant role in the story. Allen appears regularly throughout the film, offering insights into Bruce's work, his legal battles, and his legacy as a groundbreaking performer. He also offers a somewhat critical take on Bruce's later years, and this contrast of opinions sheds light on the controversy surrounding Bruce's controversial persona.

Throughout the movie, Robert De Niro delivers a strong and evocative narration, which is in line with the documentary-style approach of the film. De Niro's voiceover is engaging and informative, and he brings a necessary restraint to a story that can sometimes tread in dark and uncomfortable places.

In conclusion, Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth is an inspiring and thought-provoking biopic that showcases a talented and influential performer who fought tirelessly for his beliefs. The film is filled with poignant moments that will make you laugh, cry, and contemplate the importance of free speech in our society. It is a must-watch for comedy lovers and anyone interested in the history of stand-up and the evolution of freedom of expression in the United States.

Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth
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  • Release Date
  • Runtime
    1 hr 40 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.9  (603)