Framing John DeLorean

Year: 2019
Production Co: 9.14 Pictures
Director: Don Argott/Sheena M Joyce
Writer: Dan Greeney/Alexandra Orton
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Morena Baccarin, Josh Charles, Bob Gale

The only other movie I can think of that takes a storytelling approach like this is American Splendor, the film based on the life and work of cartoonist Harvey Pekar that featured Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis as Pekar and his girlfriend Joyce as well as Pekar and the real Joyce sitting around talking about it, enmeshing the fictionalised version of the tale with documentary footage of the real people.

Directors Don Argott and Sheena M Joyce have done the same thing here, casting Alec Baldwin as a fictionalised version of the legendary car maker whose ambitions descend into a comedy of errors involving a drug deal, an FBI sting, manufacturing in the middle of a war zone and a car whose reach over pop culture far outclassed any quality in the engineering (complaints piled up as soon as the first and only production run came off the line).

But instead of having Baldwin play DeLorean in a movie about him, many of his scenes are him preparing to play the role itself – sitting in hair and make-up discussing the character with crewmembers, trying to get inside DeLorean's head and figure out what made the late carmaker tick.

There are only a couple of scenes where we see him in action actually playing the guy (accompanied by the delectable Morena Baccarin as his wife, supermodel Christina Ferrare).

The rest of the film is a fairly conventional documentary that charts DeLorean's rise and fall. He started as a designer at General Motors, opening the market to a whole new consumer segment of fun-loving youth with the Pontiac, but years of being stifled and unappreciated at General Motors prompted him to strike out on his own, forming the company that bore his name and capturing the attention of the world.

From there it tells the story of the start-up funding, the bizarre choice to situate manufacturing in Belfast during the height of the Troubles, a seemingly idiotic plan to sell a consignment of cocaine obtained from a drug dealer (all orchestrated by undercover feds) to keep the operation afloat when he ran into money trouble and the financial impropriety they found out later, where he'd spirited investment money away into his own accounts.

It's all the kind of stranger-than-fiction stuff Hollywood loves, and several of the talking heads interviewed for the documentary portions are filmmakers and writers who had various projects about DeLorean in the air at the time (there's been one since then as I write this review – a straight to video effort that went nowhere).

The framing device of Baldwin and the re-enactments are an interesting creative choice, but the story itself is so interesting none of it's really necessary – it might as well have been one of the dramatic retellings of the story the movie itself references.

Other unexpected and surprisingly heartfelt contributions come from DeLorean's now-grown children talking about what the car did to their parents and family, and there's a well-deserved and wholly appropriate nod to Back to the Future, with writer/producer Bob Gale talking about the decision to use it and the legacy it gave DeLorean's passion project – the car wouldn't have been nearly as famous (or infamous) as it is today without it.

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