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Timothy Leary's Dead


Timothy Leary's Dead

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Timothy Leary's life story has always been more interesting than the man himself: Despite the fact that he taught at Harvard, was called the "most dangerous man in America" by Richard Nixon, resided in a jail cell next to Charles Manson, escaped from jail, sang back-up on a Beatles song, and married Uma Thurman's mother, Leary himself has always come off as little more than a fuzzy-headed would-be mystic peddling a vague, unconvincing philosophy while surrounded by sycophants who praise him as a guru, shaman, and philosopher. Of course, two recent, posthumous documentaries—Timothy Leary's Dead and Timothy Leary's Last Trip—go out of their way to present an unfailingly positive portrayal of the Harvard professor turned LSD advocate. And while Timothy Leary's Dead never sinks to the depths of Timothy Leary's Last Trip, which inadvertently portrayed him as the intellectual equivalent of hippie burnout Wavy Gravy, Timothy Leary's Dead still fails to convincingly depict him as the rebellious genius the filmmakers obviously think he is. By avoiding any discussion or even mention of the faults of Leary and his philosophy, Timothy Leary's Dead—which not coincidentally was made with the cooperation of Leary and his friends and family—ends up depriving him of complexity and humanity. The portrait of Leary we're given is pretty much that of a stoned, metaphysical muppet beloved by all good people and disliked only by big, mean police officers who don't understand the man's karmic vibe. There's still a fascinating documentary to be made about Timothy Leary's life and philosophy, but it isn't this competent but uninspired whitewash.