Review: 'Fauci' offers candid and routine look at the country's top immunologist
Courtesy of National Geographic
As one of the world’s most prominent immunologists and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, who is currently leading the charge against COVID-19, it was only a matter of time before Dr. Anthony Fauci headlined his own documentary. Though a sub two-hour film will do minimal to cement the legacy of Dr. Fauci, it’s a steady foothold that’ll reinforce the true unsung hero of this pandemic. Directed by Emmy winners John Hoffmann and Janet Tobias, the appropriately titled “Fauci” comes at a time when COVID cases are surging and we’re unsure when life, if ever, will return to normal.
“Fauci” doesn’t try to answer that question nor cover extensively the COVID-19 vaccine trials and the physician’s role in their creation, instead peeling back layers of the man clogging our television screens for the last 18 months, dissecting everything from family and receiving death threats to his rocky relationship with former President Donald Trump (when approached about the documentary, which he was not compensated for, Dr. Fauci asked the filmmakers to keep the movie a secret as to not hurt Trump’s inflated ego). “Fauci” doesn’t capture juicy exclusives or tell us anything we don’t already know but should give viewers a new appreciation of public service and the insurmountable workload Dr. Fauci underwent daily. Notably, telling Americans the truth even if meant undermining the people in charge of leading the country.
As any good documentary does, it highlights the subject in a new light; interweaving testimonials from his wife, daughters, prominent philanthropists and colleagues (including Bill Gates) to illustrate Fauci’s personal and professional accomplishments (I enjoyed hearing the story of how Dr. Fauci wooed his wife of 36 years, Christine Grady). A good chunk of “Fauci,” however, draws parallels between Fauci’s studies of HIV and his continued war with COVID-19. When asked about the comparisons between then and now, he says it’s beyond comparison, showcasing the cruel political divide that’s shaped the country in the wake of a once-in-a-lifetime health crisis.
Through it all, Dr. Fauci remains calm and collected and his soft Brooklyn accent remains a soothing presence even if the scattershot nature of the doc doesn’t quite match the highs of the filmmaker’s previous works: “Unseen Enemies” and “Invisible Killers.” What keeps “Fauci” engaging is the candid exploration of one of the country’s noteworthy figures, documenting the “rise” of his popularity, and the weird online obsession that followed (he was plastered everywhere from candles, SNL, and Tik Tok to the pitch heard around the world during the Washington Nationals home opener).
The film is privy to Fauci’s lifesaving work with infectious diseases and his eagerness to help those in need, a sobering reminder during these uncertain times of how lucky we are to have someone unafraid of telling people how it is and using science for the greater good. We didn’t need a documentary to tell us this, but it’s always nice to raise a glass to common sense and acknowledge the heroes and activists in our communities.
FAUCI opens in select theaters (where vaccinations are mandatory) Friday, September 10th and will stream on Disney+ in October.