The Kid Stays in the Picture
3 out of 5 stars
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the man who seduced hollywood Documentary filmmakers Morgen and Burstein have ingeniously adapted Robert Evans' autobiography for the big screen as docu-drama hybrid. Its main strength is that it's narrated by Evans himself, and his voice is so expressive and idiosyncratic that it keeps us absolutely glued as he tells story after story from his colourful and rather amazing life. There's also a distinct narrative arc to the film, which makes it somewhat moving, even if it never quite gives us enough to really chew on.

Evans is one of Hollywood's most colourful movie producers ever. Not only is he responsible for most of the best films of the 1970s (The Godfather I and II, Love Story, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby, The Odd Couple), but he also lived one of the most glamorous lives, close friend to all of the powerful movers and linked to virtually every beautiful woman in the business. Now in his 70s, he has survived it all, including a stroke, and continues to produce films. He also, tellingly, still has a close-knit group of very high-powered friends.

Morgen and Burstein inventively compile film clips, rare archive footage and lots of stills (which they've cleverly animated). They also skilfully weave in sumptuous new footage of Evans' Beverly Hills hideaway, where he's lived for nearly 40 years in isolated splendour. All of this combines to give us a wonderful glimpse into this man's life, scaling unexpected heights of riches, power and fame, then falling to rock bottom as a result of drugs and scandal, and finally clawing his way back up again. Even so, there's a strange sense of self-censorship going on. We never feel like we get the real scoop; all the stories seem carefully told for entertainment value, leaving out the really interesting details. Major chunks of Evans life are skipped over, including some significant portions of his filmography, both as an actor and studio head. Only one of his five marriages is mentioned, we never get even a glimpse of his pal Warren Beatty, and one of the most revealing clips (Hoffman doing an Evans impersonation in the mid-70s) is tucked away in the end credits. Basically, the film is just a taster that makes you want to read Evans' book, although I suspect even that will leave me wanting to hear the really good stories.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 15.Oct.02

dir Brett Morgen, Nanette Burstein
scr Brett Morgen
with Robert Evans, Ali McGraw, Francis Ford Coppola, Dustin Hoffman, Mia Farrow, Jack Nicholson, Roman Polanski, Henry Kissinger, Norma Shearer, Faye Dunaway, Raquel Welch, Cheryl Tiegs
release US 26.Jul.02; UK 7.Feb.03
02/US 1h33

Friends and lovers. Evans with Polanski (above) and wife McGraw (below)

NOTE: The film's title comes from a comment made by legendary producer Darryl F Zanuck when the cast of The Sun Also Rises (1957) tried to get the young actor Evans fired. From then on Evans wanted to be the guy with the power to say those words.
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2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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