Framing John Delorean

Directed By Dan Argott, Sheena M. Joyce

Starring – Alec Baldwin, Morena Baccarin, Josh Charles

The Plot – The documentary recounts the extraordinary life and legend of the controversial automaker, tracing his meteoric rise through the ranks of General Motors, his obsessive quest to build a sports car that would conquer the world, and his shocking fall from grace on charges of cocaine trafficking. Interweaving a treasure trove of archival footage with dramatic vignettes starring Alec Baldwin, “Framing John DeLorean” is a gripping look at a man who gambled everything in his pursuit of the American Dream.

Currently not rated


– Crisp presentation. Argott and Joyce visually seduce us with a free-flowing allure in editing and storyboard movements that gives the documentary an investigation kind of format to its storytelling. With a combination of photographs from news stories, magazines, and personal family collections, as well as an array of guests close to the story, the film’s grasp on the intimate details is astonishing, granting us a level of access into the psychology and circumstance of Delorean that no other news story on the figure has given us before. Beyond this, the film’s own framing method of sliding each picture into frame with the uniqueness of a slide-show is one that constantly kept the pacing of the story moving, all the while covering so much of the time frame with a shocking abundance of accompanying visual flare.

– Surprises. Considering I knew very little about the Delorean trials, as well as the complications that he dealt with while building an entirely new automobile company from the ground up, I was surprisingly enlightened to learn about a figure who is every bit as innocent as he was guilty. It’s a strange juxtaposition because John was a man with honorable dreams and intentions, yet his naivety often got the worst of him, and cemented this ideal that for every one step forward he was often taking two steps back. In addition to this, the lasting image effects left on his family and work colleagues is something that conjures an air of tragedy to the story, where one man’s vision became the catalyst in the destruction for many careers and futures. In particular, the footage of John’s adopted son in present day is the most effective in garnering a feeling of empathy that I honestly wasn’t expecting for a family that had everything that the American dream entailed.

– Two for one. In addition to this being a documentary-first category of filmmaking, there’s also a Hollywood presentation that plays alongside the details of the previous, colorfully filling in the gaps of storytelling for the footage behind closed doors that we are unfortunately not afforded because of the circumstances. The production itself is believable enough without feeling cheap or cheesy, and the make-up work of a talented production transforms Baldwin to Delorean seamlessly before our very eyes. What’s important is that these cinematic inclusions never overstep their boundaries, or happen frequently enough to stall the pacing of the story, balancing two appreciated levels of filmmaking for the price of one. It capitalizes on the documentary’s many mentions of there never being a Hollywood film about the life of John, all the while living and breathing inside this bubble of biographical fact that documentaries thrive on.

– Appropriate tone. There’s a great deal of blunt personality that radiates from the many ironies of the story that take us through some very suffocating beats within Delorean’s life. Not only is the film not afraid to capitalize on the sheer lunacy of the many trials that John faced as a result of his own judgment, but it also hints at the selfishness of an elevated capitalist market within the American landscape in the 1980’s that maximized production of product into overdrive to satisfy demand. It helps that many of the speaking guests on-film are mostly animated in their deliveries, but it’s made even more convincing by the stakes in adversity that always seems present in John’s life and social surroundings, outlining a protagonist who was every bit unorthodox as the model car that he campaigned to an otherwise conventional market of consumerism.

– Enjoyable cast. This is really on the acting spectrum for the movie within the documentary, as the many familiar faces that move in and out of frame gives the story a big-screen presence in transforming this story for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. While none of the performances are transformational in anything other than look and character design, the intention of the character direction is something that clearly capitalizes on the big personality feel of the silver screen, skewering the pulse of the character for the conveniences of the story that it is trying to tell. Besides Baldwin, Gotham’s Morena Baccarin, Josh Charles, Michael Rispoli, Dean Winters, and Twin Peaks Dana Ashbrook are just a few of the names who give nuance to the respective characters within Delorean’s story, giving us a vibrant array of colorful personalities that play into a story involving drugs, gang warfare, and two class action lawsuits brought before congress.

– Back to The Future. The most alluring area of the screenplay to me going in was clearly going to be the behind-the-scenes access for how the Delorean automobile made its way onto one of the most memorable 80’s movies of all time; “Back To The Future”, and this film definitely didn’t disappoint. Considering the Delorean name was dead by 1985, the representation of the Delorean on the silver screen immortalized its name for future generations, benefiting in the way of advertisement that some automobile brands can’t pay for. For my money, I could’ve used more time dedicated to the meat of the pre-production aspect, in terms of John’s involvement in getting the car onto the set, but the interviews from screenwriter Bob Gale, as well as iconic footage playing simultaneously during it, proved why this was the perfect marriage of temporary product meeting timeless cinema to create something truly cohesive on all levels within the feature film. You certainly couldn’t imagine anything else being the time machine now, and this gives the Delorean immortality in a day and age where cars come and go like musical trends.

– An undying spirit. Without question, the most endearing quality of the film for me was the final moments of footage, where John’s mock-ups for the D.M.C 2 come into frame, and outline a vision in automobiles that was decades ahead of its time. Even for something that is only a first draft drawing, the dimensions and curvature associated with a product that is every bit fast as it is luxurious is something that even today is still unavailable to lower and middle class drivers. What this does is cement an idea about John that conveys him as being one of the good ones, who catered to the mass instead of the minority, and preserved that level of drive and determination that stuck with him until the day he died. To humanize a public figure so high up on the food chain of fame and fortune is remarkable, and perhaps stands as the single greatest achievement for Argott and Joyce, if only for the way add vulnerability to a man who was once considered to be, like his cars, indestructible.

– Similarities to other prominent figures. My interpretation of the film brought familiar feelings in watching documentaries about Nicolas Tesla, the man credited by some as the creator of electricity. In comparisons to Delorean, both men were hunted by the government, set-up in a sting operation to ruin their careers, and then had their visions ripped from them for profit at the hands of someone else. Most people don’t know that Delorean’s can still be manufactured in special requests to this day, conjuring up an unnerving feeling within me that gets the conspiracy wheels spinning. Both of these men were considered geniuses ahead of their respective times, and challenged the conventionalism within a system that ultimately led to their untimely downfalls.


– Stumbling pacing. This film was running smoothly until the cocaine trial, which takes up an inordinate amount of screen time to cover every single angle of the world-wide focus, and while it’s vital to include this in John’s story, the dominance that it has over the rest of the film offers too much separation from our protagonist’s psyche. Especially with a third act that breezes through with an ending that feels incomplete at best, the particular trial section bleeds the brakes on a progression that until then covered a variety of topics without staying put for far too long. Opposing that, there were many times in the film’s final half hour where I frequently checked my watch, and even stopped the film for an entire day because of waning interest. With more devotion to John’s final days, the film could’ve further fleshed out the real tragedy of his lasting memory, but it simply doesn’t seem interested in the weak John, leaving much of the weathered transformation on the floor of under developed curiosity.

– Unnecessary cursing. As mentioned up top, this film doesn’t have a designated rating, but one guest’s desire to drop F-bombs every other word soiled a level of class within the picture that had been maintained up to that point, and illustrated him as a nutcase of sorts to the case that he was trying to prescribe to the audience. One or two of these words is fine to articulate the anger from this particular character, but a barrage seems unnecessary, and reminds me of the freedom that the director’s had in allowing their guests to get get everything out. Even if you don’t agree with me on this, the desire of including the film’s final text with a line “He died in 2005. He lived to be 80 FUCKING years old” feels highly unnecessary.

My Grade: 8/10 or B+

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