‘Framing John DeLorean’ a compelling docu-drama on famed con man

The man who invented the DeLorean is unable to go back in time to undo his mistakes: the irony. A car made famous by in the 1985 megahit Back to the Future, the DeLorean and its maker have been the subject of fascination for decades. In a unique hybrid of documentary and feature film, filmmakers Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce use Alec Baldwin to bring to life the story of a “renegade visionary” in Framing John DeLorean. (BKP: 4.5/5)

Review by Vice President and Managing Editor Brigid K. Presecky

Writers Dan Greeney and Alexandra Orton tell the story of automotive tycoon John DeLorean in a part documentary, part biopic that feels wholly original. Traditional talking heads are blended with Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of the man behind one of the biggest flops in General Motors history, later made famous as a time-machine in Back to the Future.

In the 1980s, DeLorean was in the midst of a highly publicized scandal for his involvement in a drug smuggling operation, leading to trial (where he was acquitted in 1984) and a subsequent divorce from model Cristina Ferrare. But this docu-drama hybrid delves deeper into the man’s life away from the spotlight – his children, his marriage, his rise at GM throughout the 1970s. On a smaller scale than Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody or Elton John in Rocketman, the film tells a familiar story of the rise and fall of a public figure.

Alec Baldwin dons the role with fake, caterpillar-like eyebrows as he portrays DeLorean’s rise through General Motors, where he became the youngest division head in the company’s history. In the documentary parts of the film, Baldwin gives his own impressions of DeLorean and how he can relate to living in the public eye with a young wife and kids (maybe unnecessary to keep on the cutting room floor, but entertaining nonetheless). Josh Charles and Morena Baccarin appear in the narrative scenes as his business partner and wife, respectively, impressively portraying the real-life figures featured throughout the film.

Following the timeline of the automotive tycoon’s life, we see him break off into his own company and launch the DeLorean Motor Company in 1973, constantly trying to create the next best car for gullible American youth. Friends, family, colleagues provide insight into DeLorean’s personal orbit, his life on a New Jersey ranch where he raised his two children, Zach and Kathryn. But Joyce and Argott cleverly depict the story of an extraordinary con man; and like the aforementioned biopics, his story is a compelling one.

© Brigid K. Presecky (6/5/19) FF2 Media

Alec behind stage for ballroom scene with slate clap. Courtesy of NICOLE RIVELLI Photographie. A Sundance Selects Release.

Photos: Framing John DeLorean

Photo credits: IFC Films

Q: Does Framing John DeLorean pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?


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Brigid Presecky began her career in journalism at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. In 2008, she joined FF2 Media as a part-time film critic and multimedia editor. Receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Bradley University, she moved to Los Angeles where she worked in development, production and publicity for Berlanti Productions, Entertainment Tonight and Warner Bros. Studios, respectively. Returning to her journalistic roots in Chicago, she is now a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and certified Rotten Tomatoes Film Critic.
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