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(Nick Nolte: No Exit is now available On Demand through Sundance Selects. Peruse your local cable provider to track it down.)

In Tom Thurman’s documentary Nick Nolte: No Exit, notoriously troubled actor Nick Nolte interviews himself about his complicated life. No, that’s not a misprint. In one location, there is Nolte, dressed up as a Hunter S. Thompson-esque journalist who asks many probing questions to… Nick Nolte, who, in another location, wears a baggy white sweater that makes you wonder if this Nolte is in rehab, jail, or doing character research in some weird library. Along the way, several Nolte collaborators—Powers Booth, Ben Stiller, Alan Rudolph, Jacqueline Bisset, Paul Mazursky, Rosanna Arquette, etc.—share their own insights as to what makes Nolte such a commanding screen presence. It’s a fittingly bizarre approach to take for such a mystifying man.

But don’t let your imagination get the best of you, for Nick Nolte: No Exit isn’t as brilliant as its premise suggests. While those non-Nolte interviews nudge the proceedings toward Fluffville, they are harmless enough. But they tie into the film’s biggest problem, which is that there are no actual clips employed to show Nolte in full actorly command. Clearly this was a rights issue, but that doesn’t hide the fact that the more these collaborators, and Nolte himself, reflect on his standout performances, the more the desire to see him in action grows from a niggling desire to a nagging burn. It doesn’t break the film necessarily, but it keeps it from reaching its maximum potential.

I write this more to lower your bar of expectation than to criticize the film itself. For there is much goodness to behold in this kooky biography. As in Nick Nolte interviews himself. Highlights include: discussing his work with Terrence Malick on The Thin Red Line, confessing his fondness for illicit substances, and, perhaps most memorably, explaining the circumstances surrounding that infamous mug shot.

Don’t expect your life to be changed when diving into Nick Nolte: No Exit. But having said that, dive into it.

— Michael Tully

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Michael Tully is an award-winning writer/director whose films have garnered widespread critical acclaim, his projects having premiered at some of the most renowned film festivals across the globe. He is also the former (and founding) editor of this site. In 2006, Michael's first feature, COCAINE ANGEL, chronicling a tragic week in the life of a young drug addict, world premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The film immediately solidified the director as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s "25 New Faces of Independent Film,” a reputation that was reinforced a year later when his follow-up feature, SILVER JEW, a documentary capturing the late David Berman's rare musical performances in Tel Aviv, world-premiered at SXSW and landed distribution with cult indie-music label Drag City. In 2011, Michael wrote, directed, and starred in his third feature, SEPTIEN, which debuted at the 27th annual Sundance Film Festival before being acquired by IFC Films' Sundance Selects banner. A few years later, in 2014, Michael returned to Sundance with the world premiere of his fourth feature, PING PONG SUMMER, an ‘80s set coming-of-age tale that was quickly picked up for theatrical distribution by Gravitas Ventures. In 2018, Michael wrote and directed the dread-inducing genre film DON'T LEAVE HOME, which has been described as "Get Out with Catholic guilt in the Irish countryside" (IndieWire). The film premiered at SXSW and was subsequently acquired by Cranked Up Films and Shudder.

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