Review: 'Raise Hell' doc celebrates larger-than-life journalist Molly Ivins

Texas political reporter used humor to speak truth to power

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Everything is bigger in Texas, as the saying goes, and that goes for its personalities, too. 

Molly Ivins certainly fit that bill, and the career of the legendary Texas political reporter is celebrated in "Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins," a documentary that makes the case for how much the outspoken journalist's voice is missed today.   

Molly Ivins in "Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins."

Ivins said whatever she wanted and got away with it because she did it with her sharp-tongued humor and brassy wit. She was able to speak truth to power because she didn't punch down. Her targets deserved it, and oftentimes appreciated being roasted by the 6-footer. 

Director and co-writer Janice Engel traces Ivins back to her childhood, when Ivins spent her days with her nose buried in books. She was always an outsider, and that outsider status helped fuel her career in journalism, as she never wanted to be a part of the establishment she was covering. 

Job stints in New York and Minneapolis eventually led her to the Dallas Times Herald, where she became a syndicated columnist, her work running in more than 300 newspapers nationwide. 

As much as she could fill a room, Ivins was lonely in her personal life, and her habit of drinking with sources turned into alcoholism. Her bout with breast cancer was one tussle she couldn't win, and she died in 2007 at age 62. 

Engel uses archival footage of Ivins so that much of the doc is told in the writer's own voice. Prescient clips speak to the political quagmire we find ourselves in currently, and show that while Ivins is no longer here, we can still learn a lot from her wisdom. 

'Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins'


Not rated: Language

Running time: 92 minutes