Framing John Delorean (2019) – Review [Hot Docs 2019]

Framing John Delorean played at this year’s Hot Docs Film Festival. It hits theaters on June 7th.

[Ed. Note: Being that TV and City is on a bit of a hiatus, this article has not been edited.]

By David Cuevas

The opening scene of Don Argott’s and Sheena M. Joyce’s Framing John Delorean begins with raw-archival footage of the titular character and subject of the film, being investigated with a polygraph test. This very sequence, perfectly encapsulates the anarchic behavior of this treacherous icon, alongside the murky waters he once voyaged upon, and the history-making decisions that have impacted our very economy and society for the better and for the worse. However, it has to be said that Framing John Delorean is less so of a catalog of the outrageous sequence of events from Delorean’s life, and more so a tribute to his reckless behavior, and the adaptation his work ethic that his influence has placed on society. Amongst the trials and tribulations of his monumental journey of sex, drugs, and automobiles, Framing John Delorean paints a more optimistic familiar light on this anti-hero, and his persistent journey to achieve the impossible, regardless of how awful, how misconstrued, situations may become.

Through its meta-styled presentation, the film manages to bring some A-List actors to the limelight to reflect the state of Delorean’s historical downfall. Bringing in big-name performers such as Alec Baldwin, who plays the famed leading role, and Morena Baccarin, who portrays one of many of Delorean’s ex-wives, directors Argott and Joyce manage to input the actor’s personal self-reflection and reenactments of the subjects, to create a documentary that fits perfectly in unison with the personality of the film’s lead subject. Unfortunately, this isn’t a compliment. Framing John Delorean’s presentation is oftentimes messy, where the meta-commentary barely adds enough sufficient insight on the subject, and more comes off as a lousy scrapped Saturday Night Live sketch from over a year ago.

Surprisingly, what really works in Framing John Delorean, isn’t it’s outrageous style, nor its usage of archival footage and images. It’s the story of the film that affects the audience. While it certainly drags near the end, with plenty of repetitive story beats that slow the somber conclusion down, there’s a certain spark and general interest on the subject at hand, that the tall tale behind the man himself, would have been easily been sufficient at the end of the day. Too bad that the film needed to go out of its way to over-glamorize the lifestyle of this obsessive figure, instead of relying on its basic primitive documentary roots.

Sometimes, it’s best to keep it simple. With Framing John Delorean, this is obviously the case, where the blurred line between reenactment and factual evidence just becomes a tedious affair. While it’s ambitious nature is certainly commendable, it’s usually best to turn down the notch, to avoid the same unnecessary risks which Delorean was once infamous for committing.

I give Framing John Delorean a B-.