VIFF 2022: Hopper: An American Love Story

Directed by: Phil Grabsky
Distributed by: Exhibition on Screen

Written by Alexander Reams


Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” is one of my favorite paintings. It’s simple but the use of oil paint provides a realist quality while still feeling separate from the real world. Phil Grabsky’s latest entry in the “Exhibition on Screen” series turns his focus to Hopper, detailing his early life, his career, and some of his most iconic paintings. Grabsky is competent behind the camera and his focus is clear, there is no question about who he is documenting. However, his focus leads to a predictable and traditionalist format that makes this already slow feature feel like it was plucked out of the 1990s made-for-TV documentary program on the PBS channel. And while there is a certain aspect of nostalgia that follows Hopper’s work, a balance between reflectiveness in conjunction with that inherent nostalgia was necessary for this to succeed.

Grabsky’s employment of talking heads is a standard, and while the appearances by Franklin Kelly, Elliot Bostwick Davis, Joan Marshall, etc. are all insightful, they fall into the pit of traditionalism. Grabsky is clear and definite behind the camera as he crafts a story about Hopper but he doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Whereas other documentaries this year such as, “Moonage Daydream,” “Crows Are White,” and “Fire of Love” detail stories that while predictable are presented in an engrossing unconventional way. If Grabsky had taken more risk and approached this from a different perspective “Hopper” may have been a very different movie, one that honored the American artist in its mode and substance more than this film.

“Hopper: An American Love Story” Clip

“Hopper: An American Love Story” was screened as part of the 2022 edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Leave a Reply