Charles Nelson Reilly, who died earlier in 2007, is best known as a game show fixture throughout the '70s, most notably on Match Game, with his outrageous outfits and catty responses.
The real Reilly, however, was a professionally trained, award-winning actor. Aware that his life was ebbing to its close, he put on a one-man show for a couple of years in order to convince as many people as possible to remember him for his acting and teaching work, and not for Match Game.
The Life of Reilly is a filmed version of one of the actor's 2004 stage performances – his last, as it would turn out – and while Reilly is a funny, engaging raconteur, I'm not sure if the film is relevant to anybody who has no idea who he is. There are no universal truths here, just some witty and at times horrifying anecdotes of his dysfunctional childhood in the Bronx and his rise on the New York stage.
All in all, the show is just one actor's plea to be taken (somewhat) seriously after decades of chuckling buffoonery, and it would have come across as desperate if Reilly wasn't so darn likable. My wife and I saw this movie because we are Match Game fans, of course. But even though it isn't even mentioned by name – and Reilly only fleetingly refers once or twice to his game show career – The Life of Reilly offers one last chance to see the man in his finest, bitchiest form.