... remarkable ... readable, insightful and entertaining. A great biography offers more than an understanding of its subject. It places that person in history by chronicling one life among many other lives, and one life experience among countless others that shape a generation...Spiegel’s portrayal of one of cinema’s most socially aware filmmakers is for anyone who enjoys movies or simply wants to learn more about them ... Spiegel’s attention to detail as she discusses each Lumet film creates new perspectives for readers and the opportunity to take another view of his classic work with fresh insights and understanding. This book is not to be missed.
Some of the anecdotes she extracts from her subjects provide revealing glimpses of a man who seemed to be a mystery to even himself. But readers may wish that Spiegel spent a little more time on his movies. The book’s greatest strength is its first half, thanks no doubt to Spiegel’s access to Lumet’s unfinished memoir. The director abandoned his autobiography as the story line reached his 20s. As a result, in Spiegel’s book, Lumet’s early years, before his movie career kicks off, are chronicled with a gripping degree of detail ... But Spiegel struggles to find anything new (or particularly deep) to say about his body of work as a director. As a result, the second half of Sidney Lumet too often feels as if the author is sprinting to meet a deadline . . . or catch a bus ... Spiegel shortchanges too many of Lumet’s most influential projects, offering little or no context or critical insight to flesh them out ... [an] ultimately superficial biography, where Lumet remains an enigma and his life’s work an afterthought.
Spiegel gives a fascinating account of that life ...Ms. Spiegel has contrived to give us a very full picture both of her subject’s personal and professional lives—lives that richly reflected the themes and concerns of the century into which he was born.