Hulu’s The Amazing Jonathan Documentary, will leave you with the exact right amount of uncertainty.
Jonathan Szeles aka The Amazing Jonathan, has been a comedian/magician working in the public eye since the mid 80’s. Known for acts which include self-mutilation, Jonathan grew to worldwide fame during his career, and was featured on various late night talk shows and TV programs. Jonathan headlined in Vegas from 2001 to 2004. He hosted an online talk show called Burn Unit. He was practically a household name. But in 2014 Jonathan’s health had deteriorated due to cardiomyopathy, and he was given a year to live.
Three years later filmmaker Ben Berman (How To Lose Weight In 4 Easy Steps) began making a documentary about Jonathan and his decision to go on one final tour instead of waiting around for death to catch him. Ben’s journey in making the documentary quickly becomes a three ring circus as another documentary crew shows up to make their own film about Jonathan. As time goes on things begin to get stranger, leading Ben to reflect on his own life, while also questioning the validity of anything Jonathan says or does.
With most documentaries there are three major points to take away when the credits finish rolling. One, the material itself. Two, the ability of the filmmaker to put this piece together. Three, what message is left when the filmmaker is done showing us their subject. Sometimes we feel outraged. Sometimes we feel compelled to change something in our lives or this world. Sometimes we are left shocked by what just occurred. The Amazing Jonathan Documentary falls into the third category.
Just as Jonathan’s acts would stun and amazing audiences, every step of the documentary will stun and amaze you. There are few times throughout where you’re watching things unfold and believe you know what’s happening. Berman does an amazing job at crafting he documentary in a way where it almost all feels like one final act by The Amazing Jonathan. A funny, insane ride, that leaves you questioning what’s real, what’s fake, and where exactly the line blurs between reality and deception.
The film gives us many of the things we expect from a documentary where the filmmaker is a vital part of the story being told. But at the same time, it twists these elements in the same way that Jonathan would twist our perceptions of things. What we’re seeing is real. What the details are to that reality, is uncertain. It’s an illusion, an act which can’t be explained fully or it loses its charm. But at the same time we see the pieces of humanity mixed in. We see that there are things that are not smoke and mirrors, and at least one person here is dealing with one of the most difficult points in their life.
The film excels because it doesn’t lift the curtain fully. There are conclusions that we receive by the end of the documentary. But there is still a mystery to everything. The film is a fitting companion to the long list of works by The Amazing Jonathan. It’s something that is going to stay with you forever, like watching a man pull razor blades out of his throat. There are things in this world that shock us so much, we can’t help but stare and wonder, “how?” The Amazing Jonathan Documentary does exactly that.
The Amazing Jonathan Documentary is currently streaming on Hulu.
Written by Alex Lancaster
(Alex is a life long film fan, and has dedicated his life to watching, making and obsessing over films. His favorite film is Big Fish, and he despises Avatar. He has a 5 year old son. And a bad habit of saying more than he needs to. Follow @alex5348 on Twitter)