Saint Misbehavin’: The Wavy Gravy Movie
Directed by Michelle Esrick
Released December 8, 2010
Some people just call out to be subjects of a documentary. Wavy Gravy, née Hugh Romney, is without a doubt one of those people. The inimitable hippie is a wild personality with a passionate enthusiasm for publicizing his beliefs and thoughts about the world. He’s the kind of person whose presence in a documentary about his life isn’t problematic since it’s only giving him a louder mouthpiece to speak his mind than he might otherwise have, and no judgment needs to be passed by the filmmakers on how he chooses to live his life because so many have already undertaken that role over the course of his life.
While some documentaries do more than just document and attempt to expose some unknown truth and bring it to light, this film falls more under the category of a (responsible) biographical portrait. Like this fall’s effective nonfiction films “Smash His Camera” and “Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, Rebel,” the only thing about which “Saint Misbehavin’” attempts to convince its audience is that Gravy’s alternative lifestyle, like that of Ron Galella or Hugh Hefner, is valid. Even if it’s not for everyone (and it certainly isn’t), it works for him. And Gravy certainly does live in his own distinctive way, taking advantage of his daily free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream as recognition for a flavor being named after him with the same attitude as he touts his handicapped parking permit as “free parking for life” thanks to injuries sustained over years of punishment for his alleged disruption of the peace.
“Saint Misbehavin’” is by no means a complete portrait of Gravy’s entire history, but rather a close examination of some of the formative events and beliefs of this personality. By film’s end (after a brief 87 minutes), Gravy is still very much an enigma, yet he seems so positively blissful about his everything that it’s hard to object to the peculiarities of what he does. The film smartly chooses to adapt his sunny and optimistic attitude as its own, presenting the facts as they are, perfectly weird and wonderful. It’s a movie that makes its audience yearn to know more about this figure, even if this saint isn’t the easiest person with whom to get along. Gravy has no qualms about answering anyone’s questions, regardless of their content or scope, and therefore this becomes a marvelously effective and delightfully entertaining all-access pass into his life.