Told over four hour-long episodes, the docuseries grapples with a complicated life but deals with it with a vital balance of awe, humor, and nuance. It includes so much, and in no particular order: a deeply candid description of Carmichael’s transition, a murder, an endless amount of getaways, a flower business, Tucker Carlson’s equally poisonous father, the story of the transphobia in the US media, Liz’s reputation as a loving mother, a huge lawsuit over whether the car was a scam, an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries”, and many more. Giving the straight-up story here is to mislead recommending, as the documentary series is all about changing one’s point of view during some wild developments. His fourth episode is the best, especially for the deeper understanding he seeks to create about Carmichael and his personal politics as a proven libertarian, which could very well have been better supported in modern society. At least in the past, she was able to move with her family from state to state, slipping out of authority because Google didn’t exist.
One of the brilliant ideas of the docu series is to use paper-cut reconstructions in its chronological storytelling – it fits the enigmatic tone of this overall story and, from a practical approach, it creates a constant sense of movement. Carmichael’s saga takes on an unpredictable life as the photos are used with photographed bodies and backgrounds, paired with selected audio clips of her voice in interviews. There is never a distraction from a docu-series using the same photos, creating redundancy that leads to emotional distancing. Instead, the style here keeps you more engaged, if not hoping other documentary makers take notice.
“The Lady and the Dale” is almost more about the people around Carmichael’s life than it is about her – she is portrayed in voiceover moments (letters read by Gillian Cameron), but she is greatly informed by the people who have. been subjected to a presence that can easily be described as powerful. Her children and grandchildren portray her as a loving mother, but also struggle with the fact that living with someone constantly on the run from the law has given them their own blurry background. “I can’t complete an application,” says her son Michael.