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Picture Perfect

Patient: The Kid Stays In the Picture Profile: Very entertaining documentary about the perpetually bronzed studio head/ producer responsible for Rosemary's Baby, Harold and Maude, Love Story, The Godfather and Chinatown. The film tracks his ups and downs, his lechery and his bad acting—which is very bad—with Robert Evans narrating the whole thing with just the right touch of bemusement, regret and smarm. Think The Last Tycoon meets The E! True Hollywood Story meets Interview With the Vampire meets The Tan Who Would Be King.

Symptoms: Some criticize this movie as too self-serving in presenting only Evans' point of view, calling it the first "mocumentary" about a real person. But accusing a producer of being self-serving is like denouncing a sturgeon as being wet. While the point of view is absolutely Evans—he takes full credit for The Godfather—at least this movie hasa point of view. This makes it better than 90 percent of the mush onscreen. There is a real character, one who wows us with his tales but also indicts himself with hubris he can't hide. He's engaging and fascinating and, yes, sympathetic, in a Richard III/Hud kinda way. What you have here is a character of weight and measure from whom the plot flows, not some cardboard standup wedged into a scenario barely discernable from the 15 other movies playing at the multiplex. When you think about the best movies of the past dozen years or so—ones with true character development and exciting, unpredictable stories—a significant portion are documentaries such as Roger and Me, Hoop Dreams, Crumb and pretty much anything by the great Errol Morris (Thin Blue Line, A Brief History of Time and Mr. Death).
Diagnosis: That's not even counting the exceptional "mocumentaries" of recent years, such as that hilarious send-up of dog shows, Best In Show, or that uproarious spoof of broadcast journalism, CBS Evening News With Dan Rather. Prescription: So if the Doctor likey The Kid, why the treatment? Because I think documentaries may be the most exciting genre of film these days and should be shown to every snot-nosed Tarantino or Spielberg wannabe as well as studio slugs who keep feeding us the same plots, pulp and pretty faces until you're so fed up you just want to punch Meg Ryan in the head. Like Evans says, "You can have stars up the ass, but it's not on the page." How about stories about real people told the way life is, going in unexpected, yet exciting directions such as when Evans goes from sportswear manufacturer to bad actor (very bad). Or when he makes the equally unlikely jump from bad actor (really quite horrible) to studio head and then loses everything to Dame Coke. There's even a twist at the end that, at first, seems happy until you find out that since his recent comeback as a producer, Evans has given the world Sliver and The Out-of-Townersremake. What a tearjerker.


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