Overview: HBOWatch has actually given a good overview of this movie over the past half dozen posts. However, to set up the piece one last time here is the synopsis as taken directly from an HBO press release:
Los Angeles, 2007. The trial of music producer Phil Spector (Al Pacino) for the 2003 death of actress Lana Clarkson is fast approaching. Attorney Linda Kenney Baden (Helen Mirren) arrives at a makeshift command center to meet with a team of defense lawyers, paralegals and assistants presided over by lead attorney Bruce Cutler (Jeffrey Tambor). Kenney Baden, who is battling flu-like symptoms, agrees to give her assessment of the case, though she seems convinced that Spector, accused of putting a pistol in Clarkson’s mouth and pulling the trigger, is guilty. Cutler debates her opinion and tasks her to use her expertise to find reasonable doubt about Spector’s guilt. Kenney Baden agrees to join the defense team.
This movie illustrates what happens as Kenney Baden takes the reins to defend her client and what she learns and struggles with along the way.
Expectations: My expectations have sort of changed due to the quotes made by director David Mamet and cast. I was expecting a biopic of the last few years in the life of Phil Spector and that opinion has since changed. If you are not aware of Mamet’s direction for the film here is a link from a prior post to make it clear. Oh, yeah, there was the title card at the start of the film as well. You know, the statement that talked about the film being a piece of fiction?
I’m not too sure how my changed perspective will taint my review of the piece because I am still confident of meaty portrayals but I am not sure of how realistic they will be. I am now under the impression the star of the show is the “court process” and the notion of “reasonable doubt.” I am looking to PHIL SPECTOR regardless.
Review: Wonderful performances in this movie and not just by the big names. Jeffrey Tambor, Chiwetel Ejiofor and James Tolkan etc. all made this a solid movie. Al Pacino, once again, has gotten into a new skin with Phil Spector. Of course he is no stranger to HBO as he gave us performances as Jack Kevorkian in HBO Films: YOU DON’T KNOW JACK and Ray Cohn in the HBO Miniseries: ANGELS IN AMERICA. For what it is worth I like his performance in the latter work best. Helen Mirren, who played ELIZABETH I in an HBO Film of the same name, takes on her role, as Linda Kenney Baden and does so with a simple gusto as opposed to her co-star and his quirky performance. Despite the good performances, however, I have found fault with HBO Films: PHIL SPECTOR.
First, at 93 minutes this movie burns through to its end so quickly. There was so much of this story that could have been told… or would have been told if this movie was really about the character of the title. I never got a true sense of who this man was even though I knew of his musical contributions to society. Clearly, a younger generation wouldn’t have gained much insight into just who Spector was via this film. My second criticism is the fact that it is not a true biography. I know, I’ve ranted about that already but, it actually interfered with my enjoyment of the TV-movie. Remember this biopic is a work of fiction. What?
I spent too much time wondering about which Phil Spector I was seeing during a particular scene. Was the creepy Phil in the shadows the real person or Mamet and Pacino’s mythological persona instead? That whole notion irked me throughout. I just found it an odd approach: it played well as a court room conundrum not as a biography.
In Conclusion: It was an interesting film that delivered its premise as promised: Linda Kenny Baden and her struggle with the notion of “reasonable doubt.” I just wish after it ended that it had been a whole lot more. I’m still left wondering which moments were real and which ones were not. Hell, I ‘m still wondering who Phil Spector is. But, see HBO Films: PHIL SPECTOR for what it is and enjoy the performances within. They will not disappoint.
Here is a video clip of the positive reviews the movie has received and, as always, HBOWatch awaits your take of the film in the comment section below the clip.