Films worth revisiting: The Kid Stays in the Picture

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March 23, 2013

The Kid Stays in the Picture
Directed by Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein
Written by Brett Morgen. Narrated by Robert Evans
2002

Reviewed by Joshua Zapf

1957: Robert Evans is plucked from the poolside by Norma Shearer to play her late husband and renowned producer, Irving Thalberg. From there Evans, driven by lust for the movie industry, works his way up to become producer for the lowliest movie studio around–Paramount Pictures. He goes on to pull the studio out of a nose dive with titles like The Godfather, Love Story, China Town, and Rosemary’s Baby. Having done the impossible, he falls in love and gets the home of his dreams.

Right there, we have enough drama to make a cute, based-on-real-life, film. But Morgen and Burstein follow Evans’ story to its bitter end–through divorce, alleged associations to a murder and drug scandals. We are privy to every up and down in the life of a man who seems to have had it all handed to him on a silver platter.

The Kid Stays in the Picture is more than thoughtful documentary. It is a heart-wrenching tell-all narrated by Evans himself. His growling baritone supplies the film with a seen-it-all veracity that leaves you–at least, it did me–sympathetic for every decision, challenge and heartbreak.

And that’s the satisfaction this movie offers. Everything that seems lined in silver is, in fact, coated with Evans’ blood and sweat. Each of those movies listed earlier was crucial to Paramount’s success and each was pocked with drama during all stages of production. The film’s ability to divulge freely is maddening at times. Honesty, as poignant as Evans, is the base of all sad stories.

The documentary is told almost purely in a photo-collage style, but Morgen and Burstein work cinematic wizardry by making scenes feel animated. They weave the exposition of personal life and career through motifs; by the end of the film, viewers are left feeling nostalgic, as if Evans were a close uncle they’d like to see more of. Despite Evans’ first-person narration, it’s easy to forget the movie is a documentary. Morgen and Burstein have masterfully adapted from Evan’s autobiography to make an enchanting, sorrowful movie to watch.

 

Joshua Zapf  loves to research older movies

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