Sunday, June 20, 2010

Don't You Forget About Me

When I heard that a group of Canadian screenwriters were making a documentary about John Hughes and his impact on the world I was excited and couldn’t wait to see what they came up with. Then when I heard part of this doc was a roadtrip to meet the man and that he died after filming but before release, well, I knew this flick had the chance to be something great. This is all the more reason why I was so very disappointed. The mark of a great documentarian is knowing how to edit tons of footage of the otherwise mundane into something riveting and, hopefully, psychologically and emotionally engaging. The greats like Errol Morris and Werner Herzog will provide you with numerous examples of this craft done well. A documentarian, by the nature of their work, collects much film of people and scenes that are not all that exciting, but what distinguishes between what you see on public access and what wins Oscars and changes lives is editing. This was the biggest flaw of Don’t You Forget About Me.

They decided to tell the story of Hughes by interviews, interviewing kids who still love his pictures and consider them great and cast members from some of his greatest films. The problem is, they allow this stuff to go on for way too long. There’s only so much reflection on an actor’s memories of a person one can watch and stay engaged. The filmmakers needed to intersperse this with some history, some biography of Hughes. They don’t. They just have actors and children speaking straight to camera talking about their opinions of Hughes. Interesting, for about 20 minutes.

The only break from this is footage of the roadtrip, which, again, would have been interesint if edited well. Instead, it’s way too much footage of a bunch of small time filmmakers talking about their opinions of Hughes, in other words, the same stuff as the interviews. They spent years on this picture but decided it would be best to ambush Hughes at his home with the schtick of acting like pizza delivery and, instead, delivering to him the documentary they’d made. This was their plan for meeting a guy who made some of the greatest movies of the 1980’s and early 90’s and decided to leave it all for some peace and quiet with his family in Illinois. This was their plan for the guy who hasn’t done an interview or had his picture taken in over 12 years. I’m not giving anything away when I say the dude is uninterested and doesn’t even come outside. I would have done the same, who trusts people who randomly knock at their door? When someone from the LDS church comes over unannounced, how many of you say, sure I’m interested, come on in? Not many. I love Hughes and I’d have loved to see an in depth look into his life, work and colleagues. This movie provided none of this. If it had been edited down into a 30-minute episode of TV, it might have been worth a watch, but at just over an hour and a half, it’s not worth your time.


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