“Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb” is not a documentary that will be for everyone.
As a writer, I took a lot out of it and enjoyed the way Gottlieb compares editing the author’s work to war on numerous occasions. The power of words doesn’t relate to everyone in the world the same way, so this film is certainly an ode to writers and readers especially.
Caro is an award-winning writer and earned his claim to fame publishing his first book “The Power Broker” in 1974, which is unavailable for weeks at most libraries I have checked. He has been working since 1982 writing books chronicling the life and political career of President Lyndon Johnson through the lens of power and how it impacts average people.
Even though the documentary walks the viewer through the background of his books, it does so through a behind-the-scenes view of Caro and Gottlieb’s relationship.
The two have worked together on the five books Caro has written and are currently collaborating on the sixth. The documentary offers a rare view into the relationship editors and writers have with one another, which is probably a thing of the past, as the two have been partners for more than 50 years.
The subject matter of each of the books Caro has written is about power and the impact of power on people. His first book “The Power Broker” was an instant success for him and Gottlieb in 1974 and was in its 41st reprinting within the past handful of years.
The back story of his books isn’t what makes the film worthwhile, though. It is the behind-the-scenes look at this notable duo from an era of writing and editing that doesn’t exist anymore today.
For example, Caro makes a point of not wanting to film with Gottlieb, but reluctantly – after filming for five years – the two are captured on screen editing the current book Caro is writing. For the majority of the film they aren’t filmed together but their separate comments are masterfully weaved together, creating one cohesive story that pulls the viewer in to feel invested in these two people on screen.
It would be difficult to capture the true nature of a professional and personal relationship that was captured on camera through their witty and entertaining personalities. The pair’s relationship reminded me of my grandma and her best friend, who disagree on many topics.
For me, there were no moments throughout the documentary that felt boring or that droned on. Despite the serious plot of offering background on their lives and explaining how Caro’s popular books originated, it was an entertaining and light-hearted story of the writer and editor.
It wasn’t only the subject matter of the film offering an overview of their life’s work together, but they were interesting individuals in their own right too. If they weren’t funny or quirky, the film likely would have been dull and not worth the time.
With that being said, I think it was an incredibly well-rounded representation of each of the Roberts’ lives, and their professional partnership with one another.
I didn’t know much about either of them until I watched this movie. But following the film, I am enamored by Caro and Gottlieb’s work together that they have accomplished.
Gottlieb was one of the best book editors throughout his career, saying he edited more than 600 books throughout it. It’s likely that the popular books published by Alfred A. Knopf from 1955 to the early 2000s were edited in some manner by Gottlieb.
Again, this documentary won’t appeal to everyone and seems to be tailored toward readers and writers who may find enjoyment in seeing the relationship between writer and editor.
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