"This is a work of fiction. It's not 'based on a true story.' It is adrama inspired by actual persons in a trial, but it is neither anattempt to depict the actual persons, nor to comment upon on the trialor its outcome." Above is the disclaimer that precedes David Mamet'sPhil Spector. If I didn't know what to think of a biopic on the extremeeccentric character Spector was and remains, I really didn't know whatto think after seeing that. This is a film that is just as enigmatic asits title figure, and earns its first strength by not judging,objectifying, or even shortchanging him despite his conviction. To makea biopic that lacks a viewpoint on its subject is a difficult, andoften rare thing to do, yet the closer I look, the more I feel thatMamet made this film solely off of the fact that Spector is acompelling and unique figure.<br><br>For those unaware, Phil Spector was a renowned record producer in thesixties and seventies, known for helping The Ronettes, John Lennon, andThe Ramones achieve untold heights with their music. Spector, himself,achieved notoriety in the public eye for being a true force of energyand uncompromising in his pursuit for greatness with his artists. In2003, a woman named Lana Clarkson was found dead in his mansion from agunshot wound through her mouth. Spector was quoted that night saying,"I think I killed somebody," and has had a known history withthreatening violence to his girlfriends. But Spector's defense team hasfought day-in and day-out to prove that it would be impossible for himto have committed the murder, due to the lack of evidence on crucialpieces (IE: lack of blood on his jacket).<br><br>Mamet decides to set his sights on the events preceding the first trialand the events of it, with Al Pacino assuming the role of Spector andHelen Mirren embodying Linda Kenney Baden, his attorney. The first actof the film focuses on the interworkings of Spector's defense team,where we see Baden and Bruce Cutler (Jeffrey Tambor) try to enact aplan for going about Spector's impending trial. Only until abouttwenty-minutes in do we see Spector, who is portrayed as a ruthless,foul-mouthed, arrogant, frustrated time-bomb on the verge of animplosion due to media scrutiny and constant false allegations. Thefilm's most powerhouse scene comes when we first meet Spector, and himand Baden have a long, fifteen minute monologue together in Spector'sluxurious mansion. During the course of it, the dialog is fast-paced,always engaging, and buoyed greatly by two terrific performers.<br><br>Pacino and Mirren unsurprisingly carry the film to heights it may nothave seen had lesser performers been placed in their roles. Think ofthe drudgery that would've taken place had those two cinematic greatsbeen swapped for second/third-rate performers in their first moderatelybig film. I'm already a tad shocked that Phil Spector has beensidelined to primetime programming on HBO, when it clearly has thenames to make it to the theaters (besides Pacino, Mirren, and Mamet,director Barry Levinson is credited as producer). But I suppose thereal question is, would this film have made it out of the theaters withits budget and then some? Is this a story that could be universallyappealing? My answer is no, because Phil Spector is not a perfect filmand is story could be viewed as mundane with the abundance of othercourtroom dramas. The trouble the film runs into the most is itslength; it feels like Mamet was given a specific runtime before he evenstarted shooting the film and couldn't make it any longer or shorterthan ninety-five minutes. For this reason, some scenes (take thecourtroom ones) feel short and undercooked, and the ending wrapseverything up untidily after the first trial, which was declared amistrial. With the wealth of information on only Spector's case, butthe possibilities that could've resulted because of Spector's trueenigma and personality as a whole, a whole hour could've been attachedon to the ending. It seems silly to hire big names like Pacino, Mirren,Tambor, and Mamet for an ambitious project, but only utilize them forninety-five minutes entirely.<br><br>Even though the picture remains unbiased, it is a relativelyunsurprising fact that both sides of the Spector case have been able toget fired up about some element in the film. Clarkson's family feelsthat she was portrayed in an overly dramatic, unstable manner, whileSpector defenders say that the "time-bomb" personality Pacino generateson screen isn't accurate at all. The way I see it, you can judge Mameton the way he portrays the characters here, but you can't say he takessides here. Both sides seem to have truths to them, and neither of themare given cold hard facts.<br><br>Mamet conducts the picture fluently and interestingly, even offeringsomething of a commentary on the current state of our legal system andhow we may have a problem at judging personality over person orsomething along those lines. Pacino's embodiment of Spector is whollymemorable, Mirren provides the picture with true elegance, and thesupporting performances are forbidden to tread the line ofunimportance. It's just a shame the scope wasn't broader, and the storymore inclusive.<br><br>NOTE: Phil Spector will be playing on HBO for the remainder of Marchand April.<br><br>Starring: Al Pacino, Helen Mirren, Jeffrey Tambor, and Matt Molloy.Directed by: David Mamet.
Biography / Drama
Biography / Drama
Record producer Phil Spector hires Bruce Cutler to defend him when he's accused of murder. Cutler persuades Linda Kenney Baden to advise him. While the prosecution's story is contradicted by facts in the case, there is convincing circumstantial evidence against Spector, not the least of which is his appearance. As Baden gradually takes over the defense, even as she is ill with pneumonia, she must find a way to introduce ballistic evidence in a dramatic enough fashion to plant doubt in the jury's mind. Calling Specter to testify may be the only way to stage the evidence. She coaches him and rehearses him: can he (and she) pull it off?
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