What exactly is “Framing John DeLorean?”
It is a movie, certainly, but is it a documentary? Is it a biopic? Is it simply reenactments? Is it a “making of” movie? Is it a proof of concept for a larger film? Quite possibly it is all these things.
Directed by Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce, this movie features Alec Baldwin as John DeLorean, but also Alec Baldwin talking about playing John DeLorean, but also clips of John DeLorean himself. It has talking heads telling the story of John DeLorean and actors (like Morena Baccarin and Josh Charles) playing some of the people in his life. And if that all sounds confusing it is because there is little out there like “Framing John DeLorean,” it sort of resembles a true crime TV show, one of the ones with recreations, but it’s all on a grander, weirder, scale than that.
Whatever it is, the goal of “Framing John DeLorean” is more clear. The film sets out to tell the tale of this man who rose through the ranks at GM, made a ton of enemies along the way, started his won car company, got into financial trouble, and then found himself at the center of a federal sting operation. Argott and Joyce offer up all of the above methods in giving us DeLorean’s story, and that makes the movie as fascinating as anything else.
The audience gets to watch Baldwin in the makeup chair talking about playing DeLorean and how he sees the man versus the mindset he has to be in to play the man. At another point, Baldwin offers a tale of DeLorean calling him to say that he, DeLorean, would want Baldwin to portray him in a biopic (a number of which were in development and none of which got made). There is actual footage from the sting operation along with recreated footage of the same moment.
Back and forth “Framing John DeLorean” goes, showing us DeLorean’s potential crimes, his certain hubris, and what has happened to his children decades on from both the trail and the end of the DeLorean Motor Company. Every moment is fascinating, not necessarily for what it is showing, but for why it is showing it.
Quite early in the movie we learn about the multiple DeLorean movies that never got made, and the piece comes back to that notion more than once. But, to what end? There is unquestionably a sense that the filmmakers here believe that a biopic of DeLorean should exist. By having Baldwin play the role in this movie and talk about almost having played it before and even get into the work he’s done for the part, the whole thing almost functions as a pitch for the biopic. And, even when “Framing John DeLorean” goes back to cover something again that it’s already talked about, it remains compelling for this contemplation of the larger ideas at work.
Without a doubt, DeLorean and his tangled web feel right for a big Hollywood movie. It has all the necessary elements from fast cars to big personalities to drugs to tragedy, and “Framing John DeLorean” puts them squarely into focus. It is a unique, memorable, approach and keeps one watching not just for the story being told, but for the way it’s being told. We not only see the marionette and the strings, we see the puppeteer and are led to wonder whether that puppeteer is actually under the control of someone else. It is a sight to behold.
photo credit: Sundance Selects