Framing John DeLorean
Dazzling carmaker's striking rise and fall; language, drugs.
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Framing John DeLorean
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Framing John DeLorean is a documentary about the notorious maverick automotive engineer who ditched a career near the top of the world's largest corporation at the time, General Motors, to found his own jazzier car company in 1973. He built the iconic gull-winged sports car that was enshrined in popular culture as the time-machine in the 1985 hit comedy film Back to the Future. In addition to reenactments starring Alec Baldwin as DeLorean, clips from the undercover FBI cocaine sting that brought him down show him trying to raise money to save his company from bankruptcy. Other investigations and documents suggest he was also an embezzler, both crimes leading to the spectacular fall of the dazzling media favorite. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "damn," "hell," and "ass." Clips show bombings and riots in Northern Ireland. DeLorean claims he has a "powerful sex drive," which he thinks men of achievement have.
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What's the Story?
FRAMING JOHN DELOREAN is a title with double meaning as the documentary seeks to present the carmaker as a comprehensible character who can be explained in the context of his time, but also as the victim of both a government sting involving a cocaine deal and his own ego. Tall, lanky, self possessed DeLorean, who died in 2005 at the age of 80, cuts a dashing figure as depicted in old TV clips. Filmmakers Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce observe that DeLorean's life already seemed like a Hollywood movie plot cliche in which the handsome protagonist bucks the stodgy corporation to heroically bring vivaciousness and creativity into car-making. Yet, they observe, despite numerous scripts and production deals over the years, scads of "Yet Another Unproduced DeLorean Project" never made it to the screen, making the case that perhaps the man's life was too big and too dramatic to make a good feature, leaving documentarians and archival clips to do him justice. DeLorean takes a shirtless run on the beach. He parties with celebs in Los Angeles. He marries a supermodel. As head of General Motor's Pontiac division, known then as a maker of cars for the older set, he creates the GTO muscle car, getting around the required chain-of-command approval for a new product by claiming the all-new car was just a "premium package" on an existing model. We discover a man who has a gift for reframing every context to show himself off in the best and most noble light. All of that crumbles when, having burned his bridges at GM, he creates the DeLorean Motor Company to build his dream stainless steel sports car -- fuel-efficient, sleek, durable, and fast. War-torn Northern Ireland offers him funding, land, a factory, and a workforce. He partners with a British engineer from the famed Lotus car company, betraying his long-time American designers and collaborators and revealing disturbing character traits. His disappointed son and somewhat-less-judgmental daughter weigh in, along with the abandoned engineers, Irish car factory workers, and prosecutors, all rounding out the portrait. A few scenes from the drama that was his life are reenacted with Alec Baldwin in the role of DeLorean.
Is It Any Good?
Framing John DeLorean has a fascinating figure at its core, and for the generations of people who only know his name as a prop in a Michael J. Fox film, this will fill in some gaps. Tall, lanky, self possessed DeLorean cuts a dashing figure in old TV clips. The archival material coupled with present-day interviews eloquently speak volumes about the man and his self-destruction, so it feels like little more than a misleading sideshow to present the hulking Baldwin in laughable wigs, eyebrows, and chin implant to stand in for the far more elegant, graceful, and vain DeLorean. The dramatized scenes add nothing to our understanding of DeLorean, but rather showcase Baldwin's seeming self importance as he dictates, as if he were the director, what he plans to do in upcoming scenes and irrelevantly speculates about the nature of the character he's briefly portraying, a man he didn't personally know. Baldwin's comical obliviousness feels especially pronounced when he claims he understands the character because, like DeLorean, Baldwin, too, is extremely happily married.
The directors would've been better off sticking with the many fascinating interviews they managed with people who did know DeLorean well, worked with him for years, and had actual valuable insights into the man. Fun fact: the vast Bedminster, N.J., estate DeLorean lost in his bankruptcy filing now is one of Donald Trump's golf country clubs.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the toll DeLorean's bad choices took on his family. How do you think his son and daughter feel about him now?
Although it seems as if DeLorean was leading a charmed life, the movie suggests certain personality traits that seemed positive and helpful at first turned out to be demons that would bring DeLorean down. How do you see the upside and downside of so-called leadership qualities?
How does DeLorean embody the notion that working outside the system and following one's own instincts sometimes is beneficial and but sometimes not?
- In theaters: June 7, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: October 1, 2019
- Cast: Alec Baldwin, Josh Charles, Morena Baccarin
- Directors: Don Argott, Sheena M. Joyce
- Studio: XYZ Films
- Genre: Documentary
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: March 12, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Back to the Future
'80s time-travel favorite; some violence, bullying, cursing.
Timeless cautionary tale of excess has other mature themes.
The Company Men
Thoughtful, heavy drama about the downsized.
Thoughtful Wall Street drama has drinking, language.
For kids who love true stories
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