Documentary Review: ‘It’s Me Hilary: The Man Who Drew Eloise’ Airs Tonight On HBO

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Eloise was the titular character in a series of popular children’s books in the 1950’s. Written by author/actress Kay Thompson and illustrated by Hilary Knight, the books detail the adventures of a young girl who lives in the Plaza hotel in New York City with her two pets, a dog and turtle respectively.

The documentary ‘It’s Me Hilary: The Man Who Drew Eloise’ is a celebrated look at the artist responsible for bringing Eloise to life. Guided by ‘Girls’ star Lena Dunham, and featuring interviews with a few other celebrities whom the books touched, the film examines how the cherished books came to be written, and examines the complex relationship between author and illustrator.

Thompson and Knight were an odd partnership, which was unilaterally dissolved by Thompson prior to the publication of the fifth book as she allegedly grew annoyed with the amount of attention the illustrations got above her words. Following her death Knight was allowed to finish work on the fifth book, but he has since been removed from having a role in any of the further released Eloise books.

Much of the documentary focuses on Knight’s want to continue releasing work that makes people happy and allows everyone to see things as he sees them. The final portion of the relatively short film is meant to be illustrative of this as it shows Knight working on a current film fantasy in his backyard, but in the end it comes off more as weird than anything else.

‘It’s Me Hilary’ offers a quick look at the man behind the familiar illustrations of beloved children’s book character Eloise. It is also the story of how Hilary Knight’s success would ultimately result in his being far removed from doing what he loved. Through no lack of perseverance Knight still creates and draws, but it is unclear if he draws and creates for anyone else but himself anymore. His audience may have all but disappeared, but Knight seems happy to be stuck in his own imagined world.

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