Obviously the idea was to move beyond the world of virtual communication, with “friends” we never see or speak to, and reconnect with people directly. The film isn’t, however, the touchy-feely Hallmark card one might expect. Brooks has apparently struggled with mental health issues for many years (I wouldn’t point that out if it wasn’t an essential part of the film). She makes no attempt to varnish her own personality, choosing to display moments most of us would prefer to keep private. There’s a great deal of personal pain and unhappiness on screen. I can understand why some viewers might write her off as a self-indulgent wretch. Before you do, take a long look at your own moments of indulgence and ask yourself, “How would I come across, were I to reveal so much on camera?”
That might sound like finger-wagging, but honestly that’s the thought process I had to walk through after watching Face 2 Face. It takes guts to throw oneself out there for public scrutiny. This isn’t a feel-good documentary about the interesting people Brooks meets on her road trip. This is a real attempt at self-analysis, created by a woman approaching middle-age who has achieved a great deal of success in her chosen field, yet remains deeply troubled. We learn about the sexual abuse that plagued her childhood. We see her openly struggling with prescription drug addiction, with decidedly mixed results. This is a self-portrait, offset by sobering visits to spend time with people who in some cases are worse off (one Facebook friend is unable to speak, lying on her death bed near the end of a long battle with cancer).
I sincerely hope that Brooks achieved her own desired results. A trip to the Grand Canyon near the film’s end seems to represent a sort of catharsis; a kind of “Mission Accomplished” sign to represent that Brooks has rediscovered the beauty in life. Given everything Brooks allows us to learn about her throughout Face 2 Face, it seems that the process begun at the start of the film is one that she will need to continue with lifelong dedication.
Face 2 Face is currently available on DVD, supplemented by a half hour of additional footage. For more information, visit the official website.