Saturday, March 05, 2011
From the Vault: The Doors
The music was great. The man was out of control. The movie leaves a lot to be desired, namely a narrative. The film is The Doors, though it should really be called Jim Morrison since he is the only member of the band that the script by director Oliver Stone and J. Randal Johnson bothers to depict.
The major problem with this film is the lack of character development. Near the beginning of the film, a 5-year-old Morrison is on a vacation with his family in 1949 when they see the aftermath of a car wreck involving Navajos. The movie refers to the incident time and time again, apparently to explain why Morrison sets out on a path to self-destruction.
Alex Cox produced a much-better illustration of drugs sucking the life out of a talented individual in his 1986 film Sid & Nancy. Stone makes no secret of his admiration of Morrison, which makes me wonder what this film would have been like if it had been made by someone who didn't like Morrison since the result is spending 2 hours and 15 minutes with a truly repellent individual.
Val Kilmer does look and, in the live performance scenes, sound like Morrison and his performance can't be faulted. Morrison comes off as a zonked-out prick and since Stone worships him, you have to think that portrayal is accurate. Then again, who's to say? The film portrays Morrison without any depth. It doesn't play him up as a tortured artist or, in many ways, even a human being. He's just a doomed curiosity trapped in an extremely long music video; film as a hallucinogen, if you will.
The portrayal of the other members of The Doors does not exist. Poor Kyle MacLachlan, trapped in a blond wig as Ray Manzarek, gets little more to do that sit at the keyboards and look concerned, occasionally defending Jim in a DeForest Kelley-as-Dr. McCoy tone: "Dammit, Jim's an artist."
Even more despairing are the characters of Robby Krieger and John Densmore (Frank Whaley, Kevin Dillon), the other two members of the band. I don't know where Morris and Manzarek met them. One scene, Ray suggests to Jim that they form a band and in the next they are suddenly playing with John and Robby.
Stone again finds himself trapped in the era of his obsession, namely the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, and while the look rings true, the stilted dialogue borders on laughable, making me wonder if secret giggles lurk beneath the lines. On the plus side, Stone makes no assertions connection the band to U.S. presence in Vietnam.
In many ways, the film reminds me of Tron, Disney's 1982 film about life inside a video game. That film looked great, but at its core offered nothing more than good graphics. The Doors stimulates visually, but doesn't engage the mind at all. In the end, it becomes nothing more than a meaningless assault on the senses about people who were able to make good rock and roll between the sex and the drugs.
Stone, usually reliably opinionated, seems to lack a point of view here. He's neither defending Morrison nor chastising him. More importantly, the film lacks what much of Stone's work lacks: structure. When you go back and look at his body of work, Platoon, Wall Street and Born on the Fourth of July all fail to hold up on subsequent viewings and the lack of structure is usually to blame. Talk Radio remains the Stone film that holds up best because of its built-in structure of the radio broadcast.
In The Doors, except for occasional reminders of what year it is, there absolutely is no structure, just a drifting, mind-altering montage of events leading up to the inevitable discovery of Morrison in the bathtub. The most glaring example is a scene with Meg Ryan as Pamela, Morrison's "ornament." Jim finds Pam shooting heroin with another man and in a rage, frightens her into a closet where he locks her in before setting the door ablaze. That's it. We hear no more about it. Twenty minutes later, Pam shows up at a recording studio. In the film's context, it's unclear that it's even the same time period as when he lit the fire and nothing explains her escape.
There are moments of fun, such as Crispin Glover's cameo as Andy Warhol and Stone's own brief appearance as Morrison's UCLA film professor accusing Jim of being pretentious. How ironic.
The Doors produced some great music, but this film doesn't attempt to look behind the talent. Instead, it just shows an unpleasant man marching to his own beat on the way to his doom.
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Look up David McGowan's "Inside the LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon." It's superbly written as well as being a real eye-opener on the "peace&love" music scene of the time.Post a Comment
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