WHEN YOU’RE STRANGE……opening The Doors
Fans of The Doors who felt cheated by Oliver Stone’s Hollywoodization of Jim Morrison as a limp-walking, perpetually stoned, posturing idiot were hoping this documentary would right some wrongs about the man. Stone’s 1991 rock biopic seemed like harmless fun at the time, but as is the case with anything the controversial director touches, serious liberties were taken. Some small and insignificant, others big enough to get Doors fans in a right royal stink.
Val Kilmer’s performance for one. He may have cut a striking resemblance, but for some, that was where the similarities ended. Personally, I thought Val was way over the top, almost comical in his attempt at making Jim some sort of extrovert demigod (For non-believers, compare the real footage of the Ed Sullivan performance to the movie).
There was an insecurity to the guy that simply wasn’t captured in Oliver Stone’s film. Friends of Morrison have even admitted that Kilmer’s portrayal was far from the Jim they knew.
When You’re Strange should have been the definitive documentary on The Doors. It should have left those of us who know the story inside-out excited at the discovery of new insights and information about the band. Instead, filmmaker Tom DiCillo’s passionate but flawed account of Jim Morrison and Co feels like a missed opportunity.
Having said that, there is still a lot to love here. Doors fans will get a kick out of some juicy, never-before-seen footage of Morrison, as well as some nice information about the band in the studio. What we really needed was something a tad more substantial; Some talking heads discussing their memories of the time and their relationship with Jim and the band would have been priceless. It perplexes me why Manzarek, Densmore and Krieger gave permission for so much in the film, but stopped short at giving their own personal, face-to-camera insights. Such a shame, considering that by the time we walk out of the documentary, we really don’t know much more about the band than we did before we came in.
Jim Morrison is still somewhat of an enigma. We know the facts; The rise to fame, the drugs, the Miami concert incident, the arrest, the move to Paris, the death….but a man with such obvious depth and intelligence is still yet to receive the big screen analysis he probably deserves. Fans will have to continue to wait patiently, seeking solace in his writings and poetry to discover the real Jim Morrison.
He may not have been the messiah, and while he was clearly a very naughty boy, there was more to old Jimbo than just a stumbling rock star, and while When You’re Strange often threatens to expose revelations about the man, it never really delivers. Instead, it offers up a decent, if somewhat well-trodden introduction to The Doors and their timeless music.
And that is not such a bad thing.
By Adam Fay
Read more film reviews by Adam at http://iseefilms.wordpress.com
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