Alexandra Pelosi has carved out an enviable niche at HBO, free to pursue personal documentaries — usually short of feature length — devoted to colorful figures who have been in the news. The niche becomes even more specific with “Fall to Grace,” about former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, who, like 2009 Pelosi subject Ted Haggard, she finds in the wake of having been publicly outed via a sex scandal, trying to chart the next chapter in his life. Interesting and small in scope, the 47-minute doc is relaxed, unhurried and not a bit longer than it needs to be.
Pelosi begins by racing through McGreevey’s history, as the married father famously announced his infidelity to his wife and that he was a “gay American,” a much-lampooned bit of phrasing, before resigning from office.
The filmmaker joins him now pursuing a new career; he’s hoping to become a minister, working with women in New Jersey’s prisons. McGreevey speaks easily about himself and his new life, as do some of the inmates who are featured, describing how they became incarcerated and McGreevey’s efforts to help them.
At times, one wishes Pelosi would push a little harder — say, when McGreevey speaks about the numbing silence that followed his resignation, and the calls that went unreturned. For such a public figure, that seems like a particularly fertile topic of conversation, but it passes quietly, as does almost everything else in the film.
Pelosi does have the advantage of moving breezily among political luminaries, fallen or otherwise, and has exhibited a facility when it comes to exploring religion without judgment or derision, even if the views held by her subjects are different from her own. In this case, part of that includes how McGreevey dealt with his Catholic faith before seeking his new path through a different church.
“No one should be defined by the lowest point in their lives,” McGreevey says near the docu’s end.
Perhaps not, but as Pelosi has discovered, getting newsmakers to open up in the wake of that nadir can be an illuminating moment to discuss what’s really on their minds.
(Documentary; HBO, Thurs. March 28, 8 p.m.)