The space between success and failure; gutsy and reckless fool, legend and loon occupy a narrow road. John DeLorean, founder of the DeLorean Motor Company, assumed each of those titles during his unique rise and fall. His life: from wunderkind to cocaine “deal maker,” begs for a Hollywood treatment. Directors Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce record such, following the auto innovator’s bewildering highs and lows in their stimulating and astonishing documentary Framing John DeLorean.
Opening with surveillance footage of the automaker’s 1983 polygraph test, Argott and Joyce recount the several (mis)steps the “maverick rogue” took to arrive here. DeLorean began his career at General Motors, where the term “risk taker” became synonymous with him. An engineer, he designed the GTO: whose production began his long-term penchant for rule bending.
As the company’s top money maker, he quickly skyrocketed on a path to direct the famed car manufacturer. However, he quickly changed his lifestyle: lifting weights, employing plastic surgery, and dating supermodels and actresses — careening to an ugly divorce with General Motors. After his ousting, he founded the DeLorean Motor Company in the hopes of creating a new futuristic car. What happens next is a series of shocking events that’s stranger than fiction.
In Argott and Joyce’s documentary, they employ reenactments with the help of Alec Baldwin, playing the doomed automaker. However, Baldwin routinely breaks the fourth wall, explaining to the viewer what scenes they’ll be shooting, why they’re shooting them, and his process for understanding the man he’s portraying. The effect creates two documentaries in a way: DeLorean’s and Baldwin’s.
For background, Argott and Joyce also interviewed many of the people who worked with and for DeLorean: Bob Manion, Colleen Booth, Bill Collins, etc — and his now-adult children: Zach and Kathryn. We then jump from the creation of his company to his ultimate demise, taken down by the DEA in a cocaine bust. All the while, Argott and Joyce analyze the portions of DeLorean’s personality that contributed to his sharp rise, yet made him susceptible to failure. With the automaker, through the good and the bad, we come to respect his blinding belief in himself even while shaking our heads at his unbelievable idiocy.
The ability to assume these many roles is what makes DeLorean such a compelling subject. A compartmentalized individual who few people truly knew, his name became permanently etched in history the second Back to the Future hit the silver screen. His story, a tale of America: the tycoon succeeding on guts and guile, appeals to all. And the tremendous and jaw-dropping twists Framing John DeLorean takes will never cease to amaze.