Ideally, a documentary about somewhat important should show what he/she was like behind the curtain, and what made him/her so significant within a larger context. Director Steven James acheives both goals adequately enough with Life Itself, a doc about film critic Roger Ebert. Through footage of Ebert before and after his struggles with jaw cancer, you're able to grasp his sense of humor, wit, intelligence and, above all, his innate strength and passion for life. This isn't one of those docs that strictly show the good side of its subject; it also, albeit briefly, touches on his struggles with alcoholism and his stubborn personality, especially when it comes to his relationship with co-host Gene Siskel---you can see some of the friction in their relationship in clips on YouTube. Interviews with film directors, i.e. Martin Scorcese and Werner Herzog, help you to understand what kind of an impact he had in the film industry. It's great that Ebert finally gets a chance to take another look at his negative review (and unfair!) review of Blue Velvet, although he refuses to back down or admit that he was unfair. Footage of Ebert at his hospital bed during his final days feel quite heartbreaking, although it could have been edited down a bit because, after all, less is more when it comes to that. What's missing from Life Itself that would have made it more insightful, though, is different perspectives on what makes his writing so unique other than the fact that he could sit down to write a full review in 30 minutes that incapsulated everything he felt about the film. Also, how does he feel about modern film criticism? Or what about the future of film criticism for that matter? On a side note, why isn't there an archive of all of Siskel & Eberts shows? There should've been a box set of DVDs with all of their shows by now. Ultimately, though, Life Itself manages to be a heartfelt tribute to one of the most famous and significant film critics of all time. Magnolia Pictures opens it at Landmark Sunshine Cinema and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.