We open on a scene in 1983 of the real in John DeLorean being given a polygraph test. After being asked if he had ever cheated anyone or on a business deal or ever been dishonest and immoral, he comments that being asked general questions like those makes his mind go through every bad thing he has ever done in his life… even things such as infidelity which is not the point of what he was preparing for. This is footage stages the rest of the film. At this point, it’s said that whether he was a winner or a fool, he was a dreamer who gave up the chance to be the president of General Motors to try and create his own car company… a monumental hill to climb at best. ‘Framing John DeLorean is a documentary interwoven with clips of the John DeLorean movie that has never been made. Why it’s presented this way, very entertainingly and cleverly might I add, is made clear by the end of the film. Where is the John DeLorean movie? Many people have tried to make one but have not been successful. Well, here is the effort of someone lifting the hood and examining what’s underneath. Finally.
At five minutes in, comes the description of what you’re in for. This is offered to you by Alec Baldwin himself who’s in the makeup chair. After looking at himself in the mirror, he likes what he sees. He then facetimes with his wife who he confesses said to him, ‘I can’t believe they pay you to do this.’ He explains in more detail that what he’s doing in the movie is, ‘re-enactment footage of DeLorean’s drama, his caper, his escapades and shooting them as a movie, and cut re-enactment footage into documentary footage of a movie about DeLorean, and what he did and what he went through.’ What that means is that it goes back and forth from documentary footage and recovered FBI files to actors reprising the story. It’s a fascinating way for the audience to get to hear the full story. Baldwin goes on to tell his wife that he’s excited he doesn’t have to concern himself with anything other than acting… he just has to look the part, which he does. He also seems the perfect choice to play the role because, though he recognizes the mistakes DeLorean made, Baldwin seems to admire the brilliance of the man’s mind. However, to the detriment of everything in his life, especially his family’s welfare, DeLorean was an egomaniac with a point to prove to General Motors. We meet DeLorean’s son Zach and his daughter Kathryn who tell us what they went through after their father went on trial and lost everything. It’s described rather well the misery and tragedy that the gorgeous, historic car left in its wake. It was almost mass produced to be sold to the average consumer which would have been a game changer in their lives, but when Zach sees one now, he only thinks of the struggle attached to it.
In this documentary, Directors Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce leave no stone left unturned. They teach you about how DeLorean saved Pontiac and started the ‘Muscle Car’ movement with the GTO. They kept digging and with the help of DeLorean historian Tamir Ardon tell the story of how he refused to be defined by anyone but himself to the degree that the board ‘booted him out’ of GM by ’73. He could have stayed and kept collecting paychecks, but DeLorean wanted more. Taking engineer Bill Collins with him, they created the DeLorean Motor Company where Collins designed the stainless steel, noncorrosive car we all know and love from the ‘Back to the Future’ films. At one point in the film, Bob Gale, co-writer of the classic movie, said that DeLorean wrote them a letter and thanked them for immortalizing him and his car and for, ‘Keeping my dream alive.’
For a documentary or a narrative film, ‘Framing John DeLorean has a bit of everything. It has footage from the FBI setting him up, his children dramatically expressing what being his child has meant, former employees swallowing the pain of knowing they were used and all these years later still agonizing over it and his wife in old clips discussing her marriage. No matter how you see his story, Argott and Joyce establish that DeLorean was a hero to many people. Kathryn avoided anything DeLorean until she embraced its community. She talks him into going to car conventions where there was an enthusiastic crowd waiting to meet him. She says that when he went, he relished the glory of the good old days. He saw how much he was loved. Sadly, it’s clear he was never good enough for himself, though, and she notes he never did give up trying to make a comeback… something he never did accomplish.
Framing John DeLorean
Director Don Argott, Sheena M. Joyce
Writers Dan Greeney, Alexandra Orton
Stars Alec Baldwin, Morena Baccarin, Josh Charles and Tamir Ardon
Running Time 1h 49m