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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Little Richard: I Am Everything’ on VOD, A Biodoc As Vibrant As Its Subject

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Little Richard: I Am Everything

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You probably know “Tutti Frutti” and “Good Golly Miss Molly” … but how well do you really know the man behind the music? Little Richard: I Am Everything, now available to stream on VOD services like Amazon Prime Video, will not only leave you with a better understanding of the songs (like, did you know the former of those was originally a pretty explicit sexual reference?) and the songwriter. It will also give you a better understanding of the country and world in which those tunes struck a cultural chord.


The Gist: If you want to know what happens in the life of Little Richard, you could always just consult his Wikipedia page. It’s possible to reduce Little Richard: I Am Everything down to just that, but it doesn’t do the full experience justice. Drawing from archival footage as well as new interviews with contemporaries and subject matter experts, director Lisa Cortés paints a vivid portrait of not only who the man was but what he meant. This pioneer of rock and roll becomes a prism through which to view post-war America at its cultural zenith, be it through race, religion, region, or sexuality.

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: This is a musician biodoc in the vein of things like Amy (Amy Winehouse) that follow an impactful singer from cradle to grave.

Performance Worth Watching: I mean … is there a more electric presence than Little Richard? Whether you grew up with the music itself or just watching him on Sesame Street as I did, he’s got an unmatched charisma that holds your attention like no one else before or since.

Memorable Dialogue: “This music made black and white kids WANT to be together,” observes one of the film’s talking heads. If you need a takeaway from what makes Little Richard worth enshrining as an American icon, you couldn’t ask for much better than this.

Photo: Everett Collection

Sex and Skin: While there is ample discussion of Little Richard’s twisted, tortured relationship with sexuality, it’s something depicted through a purely intellectual prism.

Our Take: Even if it takes a familiar format, Little Richard: I Am Everything is one of the very best iterations of the standard biodoc. You’ll come away with a greater understanding of the subject and yet still leave with more questions than answers. The diverse, eclectic set of talking heads assembled to contextualize Little Richard’s background complicate rather than simplify the thorny questions of identity that subsumed his life. Cortés does not insist on trying to make everything digestible and praiseworthy for modern audiences looking for a Black queer icon. The grace and permissiveness he allowed others to later enjoy was something he often struggled to grant himself, and the movie does not hesitate to sit in the implications of his internal contradictions. Hagiography this is not.

Our Call: STREAM IT! Little Richard: I Am Everything is a documentary portrait as big, grand, and rich as its subject. Lisa Cortés really forces viewers to enmesh themselves in the complex, tangled relationship Richard had with faith, family, sexuality, and Southern identity that produced such a singular talent. By focusing on one larger-than-life individual, the film gives us the ability to see the wide world around us all that much more perceptively.

Marshall Shaffer is a New York-based freelance film journalist. In addition to Decider, his work has also appeared on Slashfilm, Slant, The Playlist and many other outlets. Some day soon, everyone will realize how right he is about Spring Breakers.

Watch Little Richard: I Am Everything on VOD