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Review: Framing John Delorean – “A film about one of the true American Mavericks”

Framing John DeLorean is a meta-documentary/dramatisation of the saga of John DeLorean, the man who invented the DeLorean car (as seen in Back To the Future). It’s a story that has everything: politics, drugs, disaster, sports cars and more. The documentary explains who DeLorean was and his eventual fall from grace due to an FBI sting operation that aimed to entrap him in a large cocaine deal.

DeLorean was certainly in a circumstance where he needed a large sum of money to keep the dream of his company alive. Alec Baldwin plays DeLorean, and the scenes of him talking about trying to get into DeLorean’s head and understand him are edited in with the acted scenes. DeLorean had worked his way up at GM to the level of vice president and looked a likely pick to be president. However, his playboy lifestyle pissed some people off, and eventually, he went off to start his own company. There are certainly parallels to Tucker, and the fate of the DeLorean was almost like that of Tucker’s car, where very few were produced.

DeLorean himself passed away in 2005, so he is represented by the acted sequences and archival footage. There are also many interviews with those close to him, including his son, who is hilarious. It also goes into the various attempts to do movies about the inventor (Baldwin was actually DeLorean’s choice). The main archival footage is from the 1981 D.A. Pennebaker documentary, made right before it all fell apart, and the new interviews with his biographer, workers, family members, colleagues, etc. are great.

One of the interesting bits was that you hear what happened after his public humiliation. His supermodel wife left him two days after he got off, his family lost everything, and his comeback attempts were never going to happen. He goes into his extensive plastic surgery and wild lifestyle, and makes it clear that he was a flawed but occasionally decent character.

DeLorean had started the project under a Labour government, which offered a lot of incentives to bring jobs to Belfast. But when Thatcher came in, she screwed him over and left him in need of a fast cash infusion. And that’s where the cocaine came in. It’s as wild of a story as you could have, which is also the reason that there’s now a mini-series in progress.

It’s a film about one of the true America mavericks and how his world came tumbling down. It’s almost two hours long, and it probably could have used a little tightening up. The mixture of fictionalised re-enactment and documentary footage works well. There are people who’ve done it better—Errol Morris’s Wormwood is the high-water mark there I think. But if you don’t know anything about DeLorean, you’ll find it shocking, as there are twists that the greatest thriller writer would think were outlandish. If you know the story, I’m sure you will learn something new. And if you’re a fan of Twin Peaks, Dana Ashbrook appears in the reconstructions

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