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Come for Lebowitz's thoughts on everything. Stay for her berating a Strand kiosk cashier.

By Nick Romano
December 28, 2020 at 12:19 PM EST
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As an essayist and New Yorker to her core, Fran Lebowitz is about as subtle with her opinions as a sledgehammer. Now, put her at the forefront of a Martin Scorsese-directed documentary for Netflix that is essentially an even more unfiltered, always-opinionated Lebowitz critiquing the city she loves. She doesn't love people who drag tires along the sidewalk as exercise, but she has thoughts for them, too.

Netflix revealed the announcement trailer for Pretend It's a City, the documentary that is coming to the streaming platform this Jan. 8. It's also the name Lebowitz says she would give to a manifesto. Here, she shares her opinions on everything from the subway to Times Square to real estate to tourists. She posits, "It would take one subway ride for the Dalai Lama to turn into a lunatic, crazy person."

Scorsese previously filmed a Lebowitz-centric series for HBO called Public Speaking that aired in 2010, but Lebowitz herself, who executive produced Pretend It's a City, teased the follow-up Netflix documentary in an interview with Jimmy Fallon earlier this year. At the time, she referred to it as a series. Though, Netflix confirmed in a press release it's a film.

The doc is partly Scorsese interviewing Lebowitz about certain topics, many of which pertain to New York but are not exclusively about New York, and then other parts feature Lebowitz walking around the city, flipping off bikers, and berating The Stand's Times Square kiosk cashier for bringing something as sacred as books into such a tourist trap. In other words, it's a must watch.

Scorsese previously directed documentaries on Bob Dylan (which premiered on Netflix), George Harrison, Elia Kazan, and the Rolling Stones. He's now directing a doc about New York Dolls frontman David Johansen.

Leslye Headland of Russian Doll and the upcoming Star Wars TV series Acolyte paid tribute to Lebowitz for her trailblazing career for EW's Untold Stories podcast in celebration of Pride Month this year.

"There isn't anything like the work that she had put out at the time when she was still writing," Headland said of Lebowitz. "There's absolutely nothing like her. Her almost stream of consciousness rants. She talks a lot about in her interviews the difference between writing and talking and that she hates writing, but she loves talking. I felt so similarly about making that transition from a precocious child who everyone told to shut up to a person that everyone was like, 'Oh, we'll pay you to say that actually. We'll give you good money to write that down and say that.' She really is an icon, I think, in the old fashioned or traditional sense of that word."

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