The Kid Stays In The Picture
Hollywood Success & Tragedy
Maverick Producer Robert Evans Tell All
By Cole Smithey
Legendary film producer Robert Evans ("Chinatown") narrates his golden-age-of- Hollywood autobiography (see Evan's infamous book) with a sense of charm, irony, and life experience that is ridiculously contagious. Evans describes, in rich detail, his king-of-the-world successes next to the dark circumstances that eventually dropped him into the pits of career disaster, in this wonderfully original, funny, tragic, and glamorous documentary. Evans is such a naturally
gifted narrator that you never feel like you're being read to. Rather it's as if someone is telling you the most passionate story you've ever heard. On top of that, the narrator is the infinately charismatic subject.
Directors Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein create an artistic model of photo-based documentary style similar to the breakthrough style of Stacy Peralta's "Dogtown And Z-Boys." Evans's voluminous archive of photos, and film footage, from every era of his Hollywood life gives the filmmakers plenty of material to embellish.
If Tom Cruise's success were said to originate from an earlier Hollywood ambition-obsessed cool guy, then that egotistical man would be Evans.
However cocky, glib, and narcissistic Robert Evans comes across, he is the only man to bring Paramount studios such huge successes with blockbusters that included, "Rosemary's Baby," "Harold and Maude," and "Marathon Man." After a brief stint as an actor in a few movies, including "The Sun Also Rises" (1957), Evans sought to leverage his fashion-fuelled playboy persona into a hands-on producer like Darryl Zanuck. He sought to personally supervise and approve the films he produced.
Evans tells a brilliant story about how he fumed when he screened Coppola's initial two hour, six minute version of "The Godfather." Evans famously called Coppola into his office saying that instead of the "epic" movie he'd been promised, Coppola had given him a "trailer." Wounded Coppola was sent away to make "The Godfather" longer, resulting in the 175-minute masterpiece that audiences are familiar with today. The story is a microcosm of Robert Evans's prodigious film-savvy gifts that enabled him to do things like specifically choose ideal directors such as Roman Polanski for "Rosemary's Baby" (1968) and "Chinatown" (1974).
Imagery and tone play a significant part in the attraction audiences experience with "The Kid Stays In The Picture." Directors Morgan and Burstein give the movie a 3-D quality by staggering color enhanced original photos across the screen so that you're watching a slow-action storyboard imagery unfold. One especially character-revealing bit lies in Evan's candid description of his passionate but doomed marriage to Ali MacGraw after seducing her on the first night he enticed her to his house. A lurking nighttime camera shot reveals the glowing red of Evans's living room fireplace while he describes MacGraw as "Little Ms. Snot Nose." Evans eventually puts the blame on himself for neglecting his lovely wife into running off with Steve McQueen while the two were filming Sam Peckinpah's "The Getaway" together.
There's nothing like having an author spoon-feed you his own personal diary. The audio-book version of "The Kid Stays In The Picture" was a popular Christmas gift with Los Angeles lounge lizards who liked quoting Evans in his droll delivery of lines like, "Luck is when opportunity meets preparation."
It doesn't matter that the movie is completely one-sided in presenting Robert Evans as the megalomaniac film master of his imaginings. Evans is candid in his admission that, "There are three sides to every story: my side, your side, and the truth." As the roulette wheel of drama spins wildly around, we witness a tragically flawed man who was once a force of nature contributing to the last golden age of American cinema. To touch greatness is a wonderful thing. "The Kid Stays In The Picture" bares an energy and wisdom that were wholly of their time. It is a significant personal and social document of a colorful and bountiful time in American cinema history.
Rated R. 93 mins. (A+) (Five Stars)
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