Review: FRAMING JOHN DELOREAN Is A Problematic Doc That Could Have Been More

framing john delorean trio
Alec and Josh and Morena on stage in front on DMC prototype. Courtesy of NICOLE RIVELLI Photographie. A Sundance Selects Release.

Framing John DeLorean is a new documentary film directed by Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce. The movie tells the story of the rise and fall of the eponymous inventor and businessman through the use of interviews with figures in his life and re-enactments starring Alec Baldwin as DeLorean. It debuted at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.

This film’s use of re-enactments is questionable, more so than most other documentaries that use this method. The reason why this is the case is that they aren’t particularly necessary, adding very little to the movie as a whole. Many of the re-enactments have their events described again via interview or archive footage, rendering them mostly pointless.

The most frustrating thing about this film is that it seems to be obsessed with itself. A statement made multiple times over the course of the movie is that a feature-length movie has never been made about DeLorean’s life (until now). However, at times, Framing John DeLorean begins to feel like less of a movie about DeLorean’s life, and more like a film about a movie about DeLorean’s life. As a result, the film comes off as pretentious and inconsistent.

DeLorean’s life is undeniably very interesting and deserving of the cinematic treatment. You will just be left wishing that the movie had chosen to be either a documentary or a biopic about his life, not a weird hybrid of the two with additional meta elements thrown in for good measure. Additionally, the film doesn’t seem to focus on the right parts of his life. A significant amount of time is spent on the controversies in which he was involved, and too little time is devoted to his actual accomplishments, like the creation of the automobile to which he lent his name.

framing john delorean backstage
Alec behind stage for ballroom scene with slate clap. Courtesy of NICOLE RIVELLI Photographie. A Sundance Selects Release.

The movie does a good enough job of developing DeLorean as a complex and multi-layered man. To their credit, Argott and Joyce did a good job of presenting DeLorean in as neutral of a light as possible, allowing audiences to come to their own decisions on whether or not he should be remembered in history as a brilliant engineer or a crook. (The film doesn’t allow the idea that he should be forgotten, as its existence ensures that he will be remembered in one way or the other.)

That said, despite the wealth of material the subject’s life offers, the movie could never seem to find its footing in terms of pacing. For one, the film is simply too long. The runtime is over an hour and forty five minutes, and being that some of that time is spent on unnecessary tangents and long speeches that seem to ramble on and on, it will begin to lose your interest at times. It’s a shame that such an interesting man isn’t given an equally interesting movie.

On a technical level, the film does succeed. The re-enactments, no matter how insignificant, are actually shot quite well and feature a good performance by Alec Baldwin. The rest of the cast, including Morena Baccarin and Josh Charles, are fine, but aren’t given anything to do that is of much significance. The editing is also fine, but not in a way that makes it stand out significantly.

Overall, Framing John DeLorean didn’t quite live up to expectations. Although Alec Baldwin gives a solid performance, the movie is simply too messy and uneven to do justice to the story.

Framing John DeLorean is now in theaters and on VOD.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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