Framing John DeLorean: A Docu-Drama Hybrid

Alec Baldwin posing with Production DMC leaning on fender. Courtesy of NICOLE RIVELLI Photographie. A Sundance Selects Release.

Framing John DeLorean serves as a way of telling the story of the car inventor while pointing out all the failed attempts to make a biopic.

In making a doc-drama hybrid, we’re able to learn quite a bit about the automaker.  This may depend on what you already know about him going into the film.  Through interviews, we learn about how his downfall affected his family.  We already know that his legacy lives on by way of the Back to the Future franchise.  While a handful of DeLorean vehicles remain, some of the die-hard fans build their own replicas and take them out on tour to conventions.  You can learn some of this story in Jason Aaron’s documentary, Back In Time.

In an interview, Back to the Future screenwriter Bob Gale mentions how DeLorean thanked him in a letter.  While cocaine trafficking charges destroyed his career and family life, the films would help to restore some of his reputation.  If it weren’t for the franchise, it’s quite possible that his reputation would forever be ruined.  Because of the trial, Gale would replace a refrigerator with the car.  History would forever change!  Outside of DeLorean’s children Zach and Kathryn, other interviewees include biographers and historians such as Tamir Ardon and would-be filmmakers.

Perhaps what is the most telling about Framing John DeLorean is the fact that the film ignores Nick Hamm’s Driven.  I know about this film, which stars Lee Pace as DeLorean, because I saw it last year during TIFF.  The UPHE Content Group acquired the film for release this August.  It tells the story through the POV of a neighbor and FBI informant, Jim Hoffman, portrayed by Jason Sudeikis.  The film mostly focuses on the entrapment that brought DeLorean down.  In fairness, Driven went into production in September 2017.  This film’s interviews were wrapped well before October 2017.

There’s so much going on here to the point that the hybrid means a bloated running time.  I got up around the 1:16 mark to see how much time was left to watch so that should tell you something.  Could the film have benefited from a trimming.  Yes, it certainly could.  The problem here is that it’s a mix of both documentary and drama.  There are many scenes featuring reenactments of DeLorean’s life.  While this may be fascinating for some, it feels like it’s also a bit much.  The hybrid approach may work in some film but not for all.  One of the reasons why the film doesn’t work as well as it should is because we see the behind-the-scenes of Alec Baldwin getting his hair and makeup applied prior to filming scenes.

Framing John DeLorean tries to make the point that DeLorean’s life story has the potential to be Hollywood biopic.  It’s not that others haven’t tried but many never made it close to the finish line.  There have been some documentaries and TV movies along the way but aside from Driven, nobody has really made it across the line.  Driven mostly focuses on his downfall rather then the automaker’s rise through General Motors.  DeLorean saw enough potential that he personally reached out to Alec Baldwin about portraying him in a film.

DIRECTORS:  Sheena M. Joyce and Don Argott
SCREENWRITERS:  Dan Greeney & Alexandra Orton
CAST:  Alec Baldwin, Morena Baccarin, Josh Charles

Sundance Selects opened Framing John DeLorean in theaters and VOD on June 7, 2019. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.