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Framing John DeLorean Review

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“Framing John DeLorean” stars Alec Baldwin as the famed iconic main character who famously rose through the ranks of General Motors only to infamously crash in flames later after he had started his own car company producing the DeLorean DMC-12 – two years before it became famous again in the hit feature film “Back to the Future”.

The film is, at its core, a documentary which has had re-enactments of key moments in DeLorean’s life spliced in with Baldwin playing DeLorean and Morena Baccarin playing his supermodel wife, Cristina Ferrare. On the surface that sounds like a good idea, but in practice, it makes the film somewhat clunky – especially due to the fact that there are scenes gleaned from real-life archival footage included in the film – diluting the need for a re-enactment.

The only scenes where re-enactments enhance the film are when Baldwin is depicting young DeLorean’s effort to convince the sales manager of GM that they should make a muscle car out of the Pontiac GTO with a larger engine that they can sell as an option package – that kind of interaction would not be captured on any archival footage and is essential to establishing the kind of thinking that was central to DeLorean’s mind. Similarly, archival footage could not capture the moments when, later in life and embroiled in controversy, DeLorean has to explain the life-changing situation to his two children.

Aside from those two instances, the film arguably could have remained a straight documentary and not lost much horsepower – the elements of his life were strong enough to carry the film on its own without the need for re-enactments. We see his rise as young, creative engineer to brash executive leading to the inevitable high-level office politics and then, ultimately, his DMC-12-focused demise after he had established a factory in Ireland and, short of money and distracted by his dream, fell for the entrapment of his US government-led cocaine trafficking bust.

In the end, there can be debates as to when things went sour for DeLorean – was it when he got his first taste of acceptance and success while still a young engineer at GM? Was it when he indulged in his extravagant lifestyle after becoming a rising star at GM? Was it when he clashed with the brass at the end of his GM tenure? Any of those could be supported but it very clearly and obviously begins to go wrong for DeLorean when he convinces his good friend, primary engineer and DMC-12 designer, Bill Collins, to leave GM and then promptly tosses him under the bus when he secretly makes a deal with Lotus founder Colin Chapman. That is the moment upon which DeLorean has ceased being the visionary creator/designer/engineer and has become the money-grubbing businessman in pursuit of his dream no matter what the costs.

The film includes powerful commentaries from DeLorean’s children – profanity-laced diatribes from adopted son Zachary and bittersweet musings from daughter Kathryn – as they both, essentially, come to the same conclusions from different pathways – that the discharge from DeLorean’s dream car company obsession crushed their childhoods. Ferrare declined to be included in the film but has seen it and approves of its accuracy.

When all is said and done – either in archival or re-enactment form – “Framing John DeLorean” gives us a closer look, though not necessarily thorough, at a man and his obsession and what that obsession can do to a man. In that sense, it is a clearer picture of DeLorean, but to get the most clarity, you would need DeLorean himself [who died 14 years ago from a stroke] or Ferrare to illuminate what was truly behind his desires and decisions. Without that, “Framing John DeLorean” is only a partially completed film, but interesting nonetheless and ASN would award it a 77 out of 100.

About Alex Bean

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