As Framing John DeLorean begins, the various subjects have nothing but praise for the late automobile engineer. He is referred to as a “maverick of his day” and “the quintessential lead man of Hollywood”. Yet these praises are only in place to make way for the story that follows; the colossal fall from grace that was “Shakespearean” in its tragedy. The life of DeLorean was full of drugs, politics, celebrities, and controversies. He has the ultimate Hollywood style story that could seemingly never become a full-fledged feature film. With Framing John DeLorean, directors Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce have forged a riveting documentary about this mind-boggling story, while also including re-enactments of key moments in DeLorean’s life, starring Alec Baldwin as the man himself.
Baldwin is first shown in the makeup chair being transformed into DeLorean. The star is shown to be directly involved in the process, by making slight recommendations and highlighting the intense care put into the role. Baldwin repeatedly breaks down all the possible thoughts traveling through DeLorean’s head in specific moments, and it’s wildly interesting hearing interpretations of reality throughout the film. At times, Baldwin even admits to relating to the engineer when it comes to his familial life. The actor always had a different answer when wondering who DeLorean truly was, which makes this documentary all the more riveting. For this is very much a portrait of a complex man, with no one interpretation being definitive.
If this documentary is proof of anything, it is that DeLorean cannot be boiled down as either good or bad. Yes, he made massive mistakes that cost him, his family, and his company a great deal. But based off the subjects they interviewed and his groundbreaking automobile advancements, there is plenty of support to showcase him as a genius. With the invention of the Pontiac GTO, DeLorean was able to bend the rules of the company and make them more money than ever. He was not only a brilliant engineer, but had an incredible knack for marketing. GM was mortified by the PR nightmares that DeLorean continued to create, but they simply could do nothing about it. All the proof he needed was his sales numbers, which continued to rise and rise as he became more prolific in the media.
It’s around this time that DeLorean began to become fed up with GM, and wanted out. He would rather speak his mind than remain president somewhere he didn’t feel free, and that is commendable at the very least. Upon his removal from the company, he began putting into fruition the dream he contemplated for years: the DeLorean Motor Company. The DMC DeLorean was supposed to be a sports car built and priced for the masses. In an idealistic world, it’s a brilliant idea that would have been extremely disruptive to the industry had it worked. For not only would it have made DeLorean an absolute pioneer in the industry, but would have also acted as one of the finest and most beneficial acts of revenge ever.
But alas, with any great story comes the meteoric fall from grace. Controversy after controversy began to arise within the life of DeLorean, and his wife and two young children were left to pick up the pieces. It’s extremely interesting hearing from his children, now adults, on how they remember their father. For those moments truly shine a light on the conflicting opinions one can have about DeLorean. Most know of the name after it was made iconic once again in 1985 with the Robert Zemeckis film, Back to the Future. Yet his children simply knew him as Dad, a separate entity from the automobile engineer. There are two sides to every story, and the film does a great job of inspecting both angles.
Framing John DeLorean is an entertaining look into a part of history that modern audiences may not be familiar with. By the end, the claims ring true that it is quite baffling a feature film has never been made based on DeLorean’s life. As proven by Baldwin and the rest of the cast, the legend of his life can definitely work, although it’s a shame more re-enactments were not used. Still, the documentary holds its own as it goes through the life of DeLorean from beginning to end at a strong pace. This documentary will briefly bring into question the opinions of the viewer on the matter at hand, and whether or not a desperate man deserves to be shunned or to be forgiven.
Framing John DeLorean celebrated its world premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and will be in select theaters and VOD on June 7, 2019.