In the same vein as Albert Maysles’ Iris, this sublimely intimate fly on the wall verité documentary tells a heart-wrenching story of a woman becoming her own woman, on her own terms to assert a gigantic creative force into the world. Rebelling against her old world panty-sniffing suspicious Greek mother to assert her strong sexual drive, fighting the feeling she was “too ethnic” amid the Boston Brahmin at BU, and starting her own theatre company in New Jersey instead of waiting for the phone to ring, Olympia Dukakis models how to live life with blazing courage.
Throughout an engrossing story that seamlessly blends past and present, she opens her heart and exposes her truest self to the audience. The raw honesty with which Olympia leads us into the core of her self is what makes this film luminary. As fellow actors with whom she has shared the limelight Laura Linney, Diane Ladd, Whoopi Goldberg, and Austin Pendleton all testify, Olympia is “totally open and crazy”, which is what turns out to be the marker of her absolute sanity.
A warrior for her sense of personal truth, Olympia sets a gold standard for us all as actors in our own daily lives, be it in the supermarket or on stage. A self-proclaimed "octogenarian motherfucker", she delivers pearls of wisdom: “My mother was my first acting teacher…She tried to teach me shame” and “The Hollywood Star doesn’t mean that much to me” and, of her husband Louis, who she met after having her heart broken: “he had more feeling, he helped me get my feelings.”
This intimate portrait of a working class professional, a scholar actor of intense intuitive power, and a woman beloved around the world, culminates on the steps of the Dukakis’ humble ancestral home in Pelopi Lesbos. Here Olympia chats in Greek to a chorus of traditional local women seated outside, who pour on her love and earthy wisdom. Olympia is moved to tears.
Incandescent and unforgettable, Olympia is a must-see documentary for anyone seeking to reignite their love of drama and their love of life.