Montclair Review: ‘Bill Nye: Science Guy’ Takes Us Behind the Bow Tie
Bill Nye: Science Guy offers an intimate, behind the bow tie look at the eccentric and flawed star of the public television series he co-created with James McKenna and Erren Gottlieb. Directed by David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg, the documentary shows us a man quite literally struggling to come back in an anti-science environment. McKenna and Gottlieb, once burned by Nye’s attempt to launch a pilot with a different set of producers, posit the theory that his fatal flaw is he misses the limelight. Nye at least is working through his insecurities — having left him single and unable to achieve intimacy in his relationships — with a therapist as he transitions, to quote friend Neil deGrasse Tyson, from “Bill Nye: The Science Guy to Bill Nye: Science Statesman.”
It isn’t all doom and gloom as the documentary injects Nye’s humor throughout. He takes on Ken Ham at his Creation Museum and Arc Experience where he debunks anti-science displays and participates in a debate with Ham. The debate makes Nye a controversial figure in the climate change community with concerns he’s being used as a puppet for Ham’s cause. The Petersburg, KY museum, itself the subject of protests, uses certain talking points during the live-streamed debate to raise money to continue its evolution into a full-fledged anti-science, pro-religion amusement park.
Later in the film he travels to Penn State to privately debate climate change denier Joe Bastardi, a TV weatherman and professional body builder. The climate change pundit’s son grew up watching Bill Nye: The Science Guy and he remains conflicted, showing up to Nye’s presentation on campus.
Similar to An Inconvenient Sequel, Bill Nye: Science Guy mixes science and inquiry with an intimate look at the personal trials and tribulations of Nye as he struggles with guilt, seeing his brother and sister suffer from a neurological condition that he’s escaped. Haunted by his parents’ union, Nye, a bachelor, doesn’t talk much about his own brief marriage. Instead the documentary frames his focus on saving the world from the likes of Sarah Palin, who are provided with a larger megaphone than the scientists working behind the scenes drilling ice and measuring historic CO2 levels to identify man-made impacts on climate.
Nye’s passion, as seen through the lens of his public persona, is as inspiring as Al Gore’s work in the aforementioned sequel to his Oscar-winning documentary. In both pictures our heroes find themselves battling public denial with devastating results. Gore, also a science statesman, finds himself appointed a dealmaker calling upon his contacts, while Nye’s recent explorations have been interplanetary, focusing on finishing the work of mentor Carl Sagan. The film leaves Nye in his new role as the CEO of Interplanetary Society as they work to develop low-cost, self-powering satellites to monitor conditions over time.
Nye and Gore are only humans, after all, and Alvarado and Sussberg chronicle the good work of a flawed hero in an engaging picture that shows us the real Bill, from his on-stage persona to his family life. My only reservation is that he does seem to enjoy performing in any setting; perhaps there are some walls that will never come down, no matter how comfortable he is in front of Alvarado and Sussberg’s camera.
Bill Nye: Science Guy screened at the Montclair Film Festival.
Source: The Film Stage