Review: A ‘Joan Didion’ Portrait, From an Intimate Source


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Joan Didion and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, with their daughter, Quintana Roo. Ms. Didion is the subject of a new documentary by her nephew Griffin Dunne.

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John Bryson/Netflix

Joan Didion’s meticulously calibrated prose has the effect of placing her at a particular remove from the reader. The persona she creates on the page is always frank but never ingratiating.

So it’s disarming to see a relatively cozy Joan Didion in the documentary “Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold,” but it should not be surprising. The movie is directed by Griffin Dunne, one of Ms. Didion’s nephews, who also appears as an onscreen interviewer. The Dunne-Didions are a storied family whose members are, and have been, significant cultural forces. They are also a clan rived by tragedy. Two of Ms. Didion’s most celebrated recent works concern the deaths of her husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, and her daughter, Quintana Roo.