Monday, March 25, 2013
Yes, there’s a disclaimer at the beginning that says it’s “not based on a true story” but that’s bullshit. Writer/director Mamet is using the names of real people and recreating a real trial. By not adhering to the facts he’s purposely misleading the audience.
And if the entire piece is fiction, as he claims, then none of the arguments or evidence presented in this film mean shit. So even if he’s right in his contention that Lana Clarkson accidentally put a loaded gun in her mouth and shot herself, there’s no reason to believe him. And the arguments are all one-sided.
Here’s what I think happened. Mamet was fascinated with Phil Spector. Why not? He’s a larger-than-life genius psychopath who dressed like Hollywood Montrose in MANNEQUIN and discovered Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans. If you’re a writer, who’d you rather write – him or Al Gore?
A showy part attracts a showy actor and who better than Al Pacino who has left teeth marks on every piece of scenery he's ever encountered? It’s the perfect marriage of writer/director, actor, and subject who all think they have more talent than God.
There’s just one problem. There’s no twist to the story. Spector is known for waving loaded guns around and threatening women. He goes too far and shoots one. Oops. (Where's Harvey Keitel from PULP FICTION when you need him?) The evidence is overwhelming. He’s convicted and is now serving 19 years in prison. Where’s the fun in that? Where’s the bombshell evidence at the eleventh hour? Where’s the surprise confession when Cher breaks down on the stand? (“Alright! I did it! I killed her! I killed her! Don’t you see? She threatened to tell my age!”) Mamet wrote THE VERDICT. He knows all about this genre. A lawyer must be faced with insurmountable odds and somehow miraculously gets his client off. Phil Spector loses. It was in all the papers (back when there were papers). So he couldn’t write THAT.
David Mamet is famous for saying (and I don’t disagree) that an audience has only one question when they’re watching a dramatic piece: What happens next?
Well, if they KNOW what happens then you got no show.
The production values of this TV movie were slick and shimmering. And it moved along at a zippy pace. Other than being irresponsible it was very well done.
And the best thing in the feature was Helen Mirren as Spector’s attorney. She apparently was a late minute add for Bette Midler. Mamet had to cut the scene where Phil’s attorney concluded her impassioned closing argument to the jury by singing “He’s a Rebel.” Fellow attorney Jeffrey Tambor was also good (as always) although I was hoping for a courtroom scene where instead of calling out “Objection!” he’d yell “Hey now!”
Also worth noting: I saw that Grim Reaper Q played Bodyguard #1. Checking his resume on IMDB (and you’re welcome to check yourself) he has also played Bouncer, Burly Man, Teammate #3, Paranoid Giant, and Head Goon. But now he can tell his pals, “Yeah, me and Pacino did a thing together.”
Overall, I'd say don't bother with this film. It's not an autobiography. It's an alibiography. Your time is better spent listening to a Ronnettes album.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM