The Doors Reviews
As always with Oliver Stone, we get the frenetic paced, swooping camera, musically accompanied journey that is a staple of all his films. I love the way we get absorbed into Jim's recording as the camera pushes in on him in the studio booth, only to crane over and reveal Pamela on her knees giving felatio while he sings. The way Stone directs the camera with Robert Richardson is so that it is constantly moving, almost floating at times, drifting in a trippy kind of motion. As a result, the camera seems to catch things, like Jim in a particular silhouette with appropriate lens flares creeping in and out. I love the tawny reflection on the plane as Jim flies into an orange New York. The film's most dominant colors are red, yellow, and their baby orange. We see a lot of red in the clubs and concerts he plays at, red color screens as transitions, and red blood rituals - it's the color closest to darkness, an appropriate shadow following Jim.
Stone has a tendency to work with extremes, like fellow New York filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Stanley Kubrick. It's loud, raucous, audacious, vivacious, perverse. We see lots of nudity, sex and adultery, violence, drugs and inebriation are a constant, lewd behavior unending. Jim and Patricia are drinking blood together, Jim tries to set Pamela on fire in a closet, Jim and Pamela dangle from a rooftop, Jim and Pamela throw hard objects at each other, then food at each other as they break up a Thanksgiving party, Jim pisses at a bar, gets a blow job on an elevator, Pamela gets addicted to heroin... the list is almost endless, you'd write about each scene and it'd be something ridiculous. Stone is certain he is going to keep our eyes open and entertain us every step of the way, never falling into some sappy melodramatic conventionalism, or harsh confrontational dialogue - when that happens, it's messy, noisy, distorted. Everything happens so that it reflects Jim's perspective, a perfect director/subject mirror relationship. I'm sure Stone drew from his own experiences with hard drugs as well.
Val Kilmer was born to play this role, his performance is provocative, daring bravura. He entirely puts his mind, body, and soul into the character, and it never feels like mimicry - this extends as far as growing a gut for the latter portion of Jim's life. Look at how he puts it all out there during the photoshoot with Mimi Rogers - bending and twisting his body in unique poses with great humility. Maybe it's easier to do this in character, but if I was just being myself, I doubt I could pose like that. There are numerous uncomfortable scenes, which he handles with total command - his violent outbursts at Pamela or the band, cutting his wrists with Patricia, numerous sex scenes.
Meg Ryan goes beyond her cutesy rom-com propensity, but she borrows traits which counterbalance Jim so that they have a perfectly unstable relationship, his lewd and rude versus her cute and cuddly. As an avid Lynchian aficionado, I love Kyle MacLachlan in anything. His introduction as Ray Manzarek defines him instantly - he dresses in a sleek sports coat, is sophisticated enough to attend film class at UCLA and appreciate Jim's avant garde filmic poetry, and his first words to Jim address a rowdy dismissive classroom, "fuck them, it's brilliant." And I love Michael Wincott's entire presence as Rothschild; something about his usual raspy voice and pointy face just seems to fit the mold of this record producer.
The most detracting aspect of The Doors is also it's most helpless part of the story: Jim is hopeless, doomed to a tragic fate, and there's never a glimmer of hope. It's an exercise in downward spiral without the conventional character arc of rise, fall, rise again, nor fall, rise, fall again; the whole film is a steady downward slope. We are simply meant to experience the attitude of his passerby life. The only rise is at the early onset; stardom seems to happen quickly and easily. From there, we watch his life drift away in excessive carousing without a moment of even considering any change. From a dramatic perspective, academically it seems to be what's missing. But I wonder if it would've made it a more boring, conventional experience. Perhaps I'm being too critical and missing what's essential about the whole show. It definitely warrants rewatching.
I'd give it a 4 for truth? But a zero for what a jerk.
Sic Semper jerks. ?
Oliver Stone's "The Doors" has some great cinematography and Val Kilmer fits the role, but it offers little character development and becomes a repetitive affair that feels more like a playlist than a movie.
I adore the fact that it was Oliver Stone's labour of love (one of thankfully many) and that the surviving members of the band basically had full input. I would take this and 'Talk Radio' (my personal favourite Stone's throw) over a hundred of Stone's politically over-the-top movies any day!
When I was 17, I took my life savings and visited, on my own, nine European countries, including France and its capital, Paris. Did I go for the Eiffel Tower, wild romance on Richard Linklater-esque trains, or its outstanding magic and sidewalk cafes? No--train-wise I had to put up with a stupid labour strike, such that an overnight sleeper car from Berne, Switzerland to Paris had to be switched, in the middle of the night, FOUR times, just so they could prove a point. And it was just to see Morrison's grave. I met 20 fantastic people who had made the pilgrimage from all over the world, and it was my first time having red wine and smoking pot. The graffiti and the sculpture of him, in the Pere Lachaise cemetery, were fascinating, as was his life. Would I go through that again? Of course I would.
It's Val Kilmer's best work by a mile. The film just oozes charisma and breathes life--just as the band's work must have done back in the day. Worth a purchase and re-watches (I watch it each year on Jim's birthday and accidentally bought it twice), for any fan of 60's music or its culture. A bonafide classic when Stone was actually really something.
In fact, the movie should not even be titled "The Doors, because it is almost exclusively about Morrison's debauchery and flirting with death. A relatively wealthy and healthy kid, Morrison was permanently tormented (by what?) during his short life, did not appreciate fame and fortune, and ended up as an alcoholic and a junkie.
It is well known that Morrison was obsessed by a car crash he witnessed as a child. However, his report of the accident was questioned by his whole family who was travelling with him. None of his relatives saw what Jim mentioned (bodies of Indians lying on the road) and the whole accident was probably just a minor one.
This episode is saying a lot about the self-aggrandising attitude of Jim and his egotism. Not to mention that drunkards and junkies tend to be self-obsessed and boring, even - or maybe even more - when they are rock stars. Morrison's saving graces were his sex appeal and his skill with words. Stone chose to dilute the story of Morrision' self destruction with endless sequences of Kilmer (uncannily looking like Morrison) gyrating on stage, drinking, screwing every woman around and being obnoxious.
I am sure nobody would like to put up with that, but at the end of the movie we have a weird scene of the Door splitting up and the other members expressing regret at Morrison's departure to France. I would have been delighted to see him go... Finally, his death is treated as a mystery, as if a junkie dying of an overdose would be so mysterious...
Strictly for the most die-hard fans, who no doubt will find something likable and/or regret that their hero was presented in such an unflattering fashion.
This filming style ultimately hurts the film in the long run though. While Morrison was certainly influenced by drugs and had a strong fascination with spirituality and death, so much of the film's dialogue comes off as senseless rambling, often to the point that the film slows to a screeching halt. The film as a whole suffers from this quite often: simply put, this is not a story that necessitates a 140 minute runtime. Such a long runtime results in what seems like the same scenes being repeated multiple times: Morrison's instability leads to problems at a performance, he is scolded by band mates or managers or girlfriends, rinse and repeat at least three times. Aside from trimming down the runtime, perhaps a greater focus on Morrison's fellow band members, or even a more in-depth look at Morrison and his worldview outside of his media circus of sorts, would result in a narrative that flows more smoothly and stays consistently engaging.
If you're willing to put aside some historical inaccuracies regarding the portrayal of Morrison as a person, any fan of The Doors shouldn't miss this film. The runtime drags every so often and the direction occasionally leads to some incoherency, but this is worth watching purely for Val Kilmer's portrayal of Jim Morrison. There's truly no words to describe how good he is.
The first time I watched The Doors I found myself obsessed with the character depicted by Val Kilmer and found myself turning into a huge fan of the band. Prior to watching it the second time I read through Love Becomes a Funeral Pyre, Mick Wall's biography about the group and primarily Jim Morrison. What I gathered from the read is that a legend such as Jim Morrison is not a man whose story can be confined to a singular film. Re-watching the film supported this realization as within the meagre intro to the film it is clear that Oliver Stone has attempted to confine too much material into a short time period. Jim Morrison's childhood, experiences at UCLA film school and development of a relationship with Pamela Courson are all jam packed into the first 10 minutes of the film like a cheap series of vignettes. This structure is maintained for much of the early parts of the film which makes it difficult to embrace for a long time. It seems rather redundant that actual songs by The Doors plays during many of these scenes while the narrative attempts to take off, especially considering that the band has not yet formed within the context of the story. There are more gimmicks to captivate audiences as the film progresses, but it goes on for all too long and prevents the film from actually developing all that much. Given that audiences have to embrace this for 140 minutes, its really a lot to ask.
The problem with The Doors is mainly the fact that it is less a biography of its titular band and more a testament to the Jim Morrison myth. The first time around the film is a hypnotic examination of a mysterious legend, but upon a second viewing it is easier to look past this all and pick apart the flaws in the film. The Doors relies too much on recreating segments of Jim Morrison's life and captivating viewers with shock value to coerce them into thinking they are watching a brilliant film. Those familiar with Jim Morrison's antics can admire the mood of the feature and Val Kilmer's incredible performance, but a stronger understanding of the real story which the film cannot grasp will make it a challenge to completely admire. The obsession with the Jim Morrison myth neglects not only proper storytelling and real-world fidelity, but a fair depiction of the other people in the existence of The Lizard King. For one thing Pamela Courson's role in Jim Morrison's life exceeds the narrative grasp of the film. Her obsessive and self-destructive nature is not emphasized in the film, rather she is treated as a product of Jim Morrison's insanity more than her own character. As a result she is reduced to being a melodramatic subplot which does little more than distract from the central narrartive of the film. In reality the two were a co-dependent product of each other's descent into madness, and though Jim Morrison's influence on Pamela Courson was arguably more powerful than the alternative, Oliver Stone suggests that it was merely an exercise of power on behalf of Jim Morrison and nothing else. And also, there are other members of the band. If they have stories of their own then Oliver Stone sure as hell doesn't recognize it. And with that in mind, the film should not be titled The Doors when it is about The Lizard King and nobody else.
And the lack of histrorical context fails to ensure that audiences actually understand why it is that The Doors were such a hit. We gather that the shock value of Jim Morrison's antics were unforgettably distinctive, but the fact is that they came from a time of counterculture where the anti-establishment ideology fuelled the youth of America. The Doors' innovative musical style, poetic lyrical content and unconventional star power is what made them so legendary in a time of such disillusionment, but Oliver Stone is too busy idolizing Jim Morrison to explain why anyone else should. As much as I find Oliver Stone to be an obsessively self-indulgent filmmaker in too many cases, his efforts to capture the anti-establishment ideology in some of his better works display that he has a grip on the harsh reality of the 1960's from his own experiences. The Doors goes down with Born on the Fourth of July (1989) and Nixon (1995) while the stylistic obsession and forsaken narrative evoke memories to Natural Born Killers (1994) which stands as one of the worst films I've ever seen. Frankly, The Doors is little more than a style-driven fantasy about a legendary musician which will work to introduce new audiences to Jim Morrison without much respect for those who appreciate the truth or narrative coherence.
However, there is no denial that Oliver Stone's keen eye for imagery makes for a trippy experience. The cinematography works to position the imagery brilliantly and put special emphasis on whatever the key focus is, while the colour scheme shifts into a more acidic fluorescent style in the most energized moments of the film. This creates an effectively atmospheric experience, and when Jim Morrison brings the film to its most intense scenes with the power of his music it is easy to get lost in the experience. As if it is a testament to the style of Dennis Hopper's iconic Easy Rider (1969) but done with a significantly larger budget, the manipulation of colour and lighting in The Doorsmakes for an unforgettable visual experience. And against the backdrop of tunes by The Doors, audiences are transported back to the glorious art of The Doors' heyday and treated to a tribute concert which is brought on with top notch production values. The Doors is worth watching for this experience alone because with both viewings I have found brilliant artistic ambition in the recreation of concerts by The Doors, and it works as a testament to Oliver Stone's credibility in one department even when his storytelling tenacity fails to match up to it.
But the real thing which brings The Doors to life is Val Kilmer in one of the greatest performances given by anyone in the history of cinema. The first time I viewed The Doors I was blown away by the larger-than-life creature he had depicted on screen and fell in love with Jim Morrison. After learning more about the real story behind him and the inaccuracies depicted in the story, I still cannot deny that Val Kilmer is an example of absolute flawless casting. Even upon a second viewing, I completely forgot that I was looking at Val Kilmer the second time. As the film started I took note to the way Val Kilmer captured the man's manner of walking and talking, but I quickly got so lost in it that I just embraced the fact that he actually became the man. In a perfect tribute that completely brought the man to life once again, Val Kilmer is perfect for the part inside and out. For once in an Oliver Stone film, an actor actually looks like the person they're meant to be playing. Val Kilmer's appearance, slick movements and facial expressions all perfectly embody the legendary Lizard King. And to add to it, Val Kilmer's recreation of Jim Morrison's iconic tone of voice is a remarkable tribute to the legend. Said to be so accurate that even actual surviving members of The Doors couldn't even differentiate it from the real thing, Val Kilmer captures the unpredictable and wide-toned nature of Jim Morrison's lyrical style and the raw passion of delivery. Val Kilmer loses himself in the role as if it is a remarkable drug trip, and he walks around in the very skin of Jim Morrison to an unforgettable extent of brilliance. Val Kilmer's performance is pure perfection which goes beyond the realm of acting and creates a new standard for performers everywhere, and the way that he manages to bring the best out of everyone around him with the depth and explosive spirit of his performance. The Doors is clearly Val Kilmer's finest hour, and his performance nails Jim Morrison with sufficient tenacity to compensate for areas of the screenplay which fail to accurately depict the character.
Meg Ryan isn't given a role with all that much depth which is a shame because there is a large story behind Pamela Courson herself which the film cannot see eye to eye with. She is reduced to her own melodramatic subplot which puts limitations on what Meg Ryan is allowed to do with her role. Ultimately, she delivers a fairly satisfying effort. Most of the value in her performance comes from her chemistry with Val Kilmer and the power they bring out of each other as their combined efforts make for some powerful moments of drama. Meg Ryan does what she can with the role and brings out a decent performance.
Even though they play to the background far too often, the raw passion in the performances of Kyle MacLachlan, Frank Whaley and Kevin Dillon are in need of much appreciation. Kyle MacLachlan's sophistication, Frank Whaley's sense of confusion and Kevin Dillon's blunt nature provide a perspective into other sides of The Doors which hints at a story of far greater potential. Crispin Glover is a great fit as Andy Warhol as he captures a distinctive flamboyance in the part, and Kathleen Quinlan's mysterious nature makes her an intriguing addition. Michael Madsen is also an enjoyable presence, and Michael Wincott's reserved yet intense effort is befitting.
The Doors' obsession with the myth of Jim Morrison makes it a factually inacurrate story which is burdened by formulaic Hollywood cliches and a vignette narrative structure which prevents amy actual narrative development from occuring. But Oliver Stone's sense of style makes for a hypnotic experience while Val Kilmer's Academy Award-worthy performance solidifies it as an unforgettable experience.