Very moving, very powerful, very informative and educational.
In the hands of a fantastic team helmed by, oh, I don't know, maybe Werner Herzog, Alex Gibney, or Michael Moore, I could totally envision Cracked Up winning an Oscar for Best Documentary.
As it is, and perhaps rightfully so, it's a very small, intimate, economical piece about lifelong "mental injury" (NOT to be confused with "mental illness") that feels like it was filmed on an iPhone.
I admit that I knew absolutely nothing about this story...nothing about Saturday Night Live's Darrell Hammond, much less his incredibly abusive childhood. And now that I do, I am almost embarrassed that I did not know earlier.
His life story—and the mere fact he survives to tell it—is a testament to perseverance and overcoming.
It begins slowly, and this frustrated me for 40 minutes or so, but once you begin to see where it's going (the revelations it unspools), it's rather harrowing and you're sorta appreciative they plodded along. To prepare you; to get you ready.
I would have considered myself fortunate to have seen The Darrell Hammond Project live in 2015, but I didn't even know it existed. (If you want to learn more, check out this review: https://variety.com/2015/legit/reviews/darrell-hammond-project-review-saturday-night-live-1201429054/).
When you can (assuming you're interested in learning more), do give it a try. It's not a feel-good story, but it is a survival story, and sometimes that's exactly what we need, even if it's not what we want.
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p.s. I feel moved to capture just a handful of key quotes from the documentary, should you be interested in vibe, tone, or degree of insightfulness. They are as follows, from two psychiatrists featured prominently.
“Childhood trauma changes the wiring of the brain. Think of it as someone who has been abused by someone who’s supposed to protect them. The logic is gone. And that’s how your brain tried to create new identities, sort of, to be able to tolerate that insult to the brain, and what it manifests is depression, insomnia, irritability, the inability to forge sustainable relationships. Then, you start to self-medicate. Alcohol is one; it’s legal. But then you go to marijuana, and then you go to benzos. And then before you know it, you go to uppers because you have to go to work, and then you go to downers, and then you go to opiates.
One of the worst things that I’ve seen in trauma victims is that they blame themselves. They learn to know that they are bad, because why would they be abused by their protectors? They must have done something wrong. Especially childhood trauma.”
Nabil Kotbi, MD
Chief of “The Haven,” a specialized inpatient unit of Weill Cornell Medicine (NYP Westchester Campus)
“If you cannot tell the truth, you need to lock that reality away, and that reality starts festering inside of you. It becomes what Freud always said, ‘A splinter in your mind.’ A splinter in your brain, a splinter in your soul that starts festering. And so, anything that cannot be spoken becomes an internal danger to yourself.
But your reality is not allowed to be seen, and to be known. That is the trauma. When people have a memory of trauma they see the face of the person, they smell the smell of the rapist, they feel the horrifying things in their body. It’s an undigested memory. The sounds are still there, and are stored somewhere, and the visual input is stored somewhere. And certain triggers can reinstate those sounds or those images. And you hear them again, and you see them again. So these are not really memories, these are just an activation of a fragment of something of the past.
Trauma is usually about a victim trying to make amends for the perpetrator. The most important thing is forgiveness of yourself for having been as vulnerable, as scared, as angry, as frozen as you were. And forgiving yourself all the ways you have tried to survive. So just take care of that. Just learn to forgive yourself for all the things you have done in order to survive. That’s a big job.”
Bessel Van der Kolk, MD
Author, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma