Don Argott & Sheena M. Joyce's "FRAMING JOHN DELOREAN"
Review by Dennis D. McDonald
Viewed at Traverse City Film Festival August 1, 2019
If all you know about John DeLorean is based on the auto used in BACK TO THE FUTURE, this hair-raising semi-documentary about the meteoric rise and subsequent downfall of automobile industry wunderkind John DeLorean will play out like a fantasy, as in, “You can’t make this stuff up.”
The movie mixes real documentary film and news clippings with modern-day re-enactments. Alec Baldwin is either playing John DeLorean or discussing the work (and challenges) involved in playing John DeLorean. Many onscreen interviews are with people who knew or worked with DeLorean including his two children. If you don’t pay close attention you can’t be faulted at times for confusing who is real and who is being played by an actor. The overall effect is to tell a tale about an individual who continually probed the boundaries of what was then a traditional and innovation-resistant industry.
If I can find fault with the movie — which I enjoyed as screened at the 2019 Traverse City FIlm Festival — it’s that little information is provided about the DeLorean automobile itself. Viewed from the perspective of 2019 it’s still a cool-looking automobile. But how was it innovative? The movie doesn’t get into that question other than to describe in passing the materials used in its construction.
Instead we focus almost entirely on DeLorean himself and his trials and tribulations — and then trials of the legal variety — as he moved mountains to set up a new automobile manufacturing company to build his dream car. As time passes he becomes desperate for financing. That’s when he succumbs to entrapment by Federal agents who draw him into a massive but fake cocaine deal.
Other than that single qualm I have to praise this film for so skillfully interweaving documentary fact with documentary reenactment in a way that does not sugarcoat the complexity — and desperation — of the financial challenges faced by DeLorean. The simple fact is that much of what we see here is true. People write novels about flawed heroes like this but few live through the experiences of the real John DeLorean.
Review copyright (c) 2019 by Dennis D. McDonald