Glen Weldon

For the first hour or so of HBO's two-night documentary event, The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, you'd be forgiven for assuming the key word in that title is Diaries. In a brief opening, Shandling himself, who died almost exactly two years ago now, shows the diaries he kept all his life to the camera, and reads a particularly banal passage.

He grins. Or maybe he winces. It's a little of both, really. And there it is: That pained smile was the patch of comedy real-estate Shandling staked out for himself, and still owns.

(THE FILM CRITIC steps to the podium.)

CRITIC: Good evening. Thank you all for coming. I'll read a brief statement, and then I'll be happy to take your questions.

(He removes a piece of paper from his jacket pocket, unfolds it, and begins to read.)

The process of coming to terms with one's sexuality varies widely, depending on the individual — it can be scary, invigorating, heartbreaking, life-affirming; usually it's some complex combination of those feelings and more. What does not vary in the process of coming out is the fact that it is a process. It has a timeline, and not necessarily a smooth one. It's marked by fits and starts, denials and avowals, fraught conversations in somebody's car, the fear of rejection and, hopefully, the relief of acceptance.

Which is probably why we keep making movies about it.

"I'm just like you," says gay 17-year-old Simon Spier (straight 22-year-old Nick Robinson), by way of introduction. We assume, at first, that he's just getting his Ferris Bueller on and introducing himself to the audience, but it turns out he's instead replying, via pseudonymous e-mail account, to an anonymous blog post written by one of his schoolmates. A correspondence ensues between their respective, most secret selves, as both Simon and the young man he calls "Blue" are still in the closet.

Why are you reading this?

That's a serious question; I'm sincerely curious: Why are you sitting there, right now, reading a review of the movie Death Wish?

For my part, I can tell you that the reason I'm writing this review is because it's my job — but you? What's your excuse?

I mean: It's Death Wish.

You will either go to see it, because it's Death Wish, or you very, very won't, because it's Death Wish.

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