The whole world knows who Anthony Fauci is. Just two years ago, that wasn’t the case, even though he was already one of the world’s leading scientists. Such is life for men and women of science, doomed to work in obscurity while often literally saving lives. Of course, the coronavirus and ensuing global outbreak put Fauci to the forefront of society. As we navigate the (hopefully) back end of the COVID-19 pandemic, the documentary Fauci is here to look at the man behind some of the science. Especially after both the hero worship and the hatred given to this man, a doc comes as a bit of a tonic. Dropping on Disney+, it’s a compelling look at a dedicated public servant.
Fauci is the sort of documentary that will entertain its target audience but will change absolutely zero minds. If that sort of approach works for you, you’re in for a treat. In fact, add a half star to my rating. If you prefer a different take from your non-fiction cinema, maybe deduct a half star. All in all, though, this is the kind of doc that goes down easy, even given sometimes tough subject matter.
The documentary is a portrait of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States, and arguably the world. Fauci has led the fight in the U.S. for decades against every epidemic we’ve faced. It’s not just COVID-19, either, as his resume also includes leading the charge to defend society from AIDS, Ebola, SARS, and more. Of course, Fauci is more than just a physician and scientist. He’s also a husband and a father, having to balance the responsibilities of family with those of being a leading public servant. Decades of service for seven Presidents have been bookended by two global pandemics, both of which have largely shaped the man.
Obviously, COVID looms large here. It factors in both in terms of his actual work, as well as for how he became a public celebrity. His television appearances, as well as repudiations of Donald Trump‘s wild scientific inaccuracies both endeared him to many and made him a target for others. The doc brings that up, though always goes back to the man himself, who tackles it all with his trademark personality.
Anthony Fauci is a public health official and a scientist. That’s it. And yet, some on the fringe consider him Public Enemy #1. Here, we just see him as a man, dedicated to his job. He genuinely wants to make a difference in the world. Has he been perfect? No, and he’ll be among the first to tell you that. That being said, his leadership at the National Institute of Health has made the world a better place. As bad as things were with AIDS and COVID, imagine if he wasn’t guiding the NIH…
Directors John Hoffman and Janet Tobias take a reverential and traditional path in telling this story. Talking heads, stock footage, and commentary/moments with Fauci himself rule the day. None of that is inherently bad, but given the potential for something interesting here, it’s a bit of a shame that there’s not more of a filmmaking style on display. Don’t get me wrong, Hoffman and Tobias do a fine job, but they just don’t add much to the situation. It’s Fauci’s show.
Fauci has exactly what you expect from a documentary about this man, no more, no less. Those who hate him won’t change their mind (though they should seek out help). Those who love him, however, will enjoy the hero worship. Overall, this is a good doc that avoids ever becoming great. In a way, though, it’s a good companion piece to Fauci himself, who just wants to do good work. We should all be like him.