Nora Ephron's son, Jacob Bernstein, talks to many of his mother's admirers in HBO's documentary "Everything Is Copy." While the well-worn technique risks repetitiveness and excessive praise, the film's honest and loving portrait of Ephron's life and career stays fascinating and compelling. Along with actresses reading excepts from Ephron's work as a writer, the film shows clips of Ephron appearing on TV.
Following his mother's example reflected in the movie's title, Bernstein doesn't cover up negative and scandalous parts of Ephron's life. He revisits her painful marriage to his father, Carl Bernstein, which Ephron exposed in the self-lacerating book and movie "Heartburn."
Bernstein, who with Bob Woodward uncovered Watergate for the Washington Post, broke up the marriage with an affair when Ephron was pregnant with Jacob. Carl Bernstein is among many acqwho appear in the documentary.
While celebrating Ephron's film success as the writer of "Silkwood" and "When Harry Met Sally," and the writer and director of "Sleepless in Seattle" and "Julie and Julia," the film also mentions her string of flops after her initial triumphs, even showing portions of a devastating Siskel and Ebert review.
Ephron made her mark in Hollywood, but New York City was her true home. The documentary's prevailing view of her is as a New York City character, socializing with other members of the Manhattan media elite. The most poignant interviews are with the late Mike Nichols, hauntingly frail in his film appearances.
Ephron and her sisters grew up in New York City in the theater and film world. Their parents were writers who ended their careers as failures; the documentary's title comes from the motto of Ephron's mother concerning the writing trade.
As "Heatburn" showed, Ephron obsessively used the details of her life in her writing. After first attracting attention as a New York newspaper journalist, Ephron gained fame as one of the top chroniclers of women's attitudes during feminism's second wave. Her wry satirical style captured widespread feelings.
She blended that light-hearted feminism with a love for old-fashioned romantic comedy in her films starring Meg Ryan, most notably "Sleepless in Seattle" and "When Harry Met Sally." The documentary shows Ryan's famous faked orgasm scene in"When Harry Met Sally." The documentary emphasizes that the scene was suggested by Ryan. The Ryan films, which also starred Billy Crystal and Tom Hanks, also defined an era when women sought fulfillment in work along with love and marriage.
The overriding message of the film is how Ephron relentlessly persevered over personal and professional setbacks. Her death in 2012 from leukemia surprised many of her closest friends who were not aware of her illness.
Bernstein's loving tribute to his Mom is sweet and engaging, but doesn't succumb to excessive sentimentality. He succeeds in defining her as one of the major chroniclers of an age that already seems long ago.