Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Auto Focus

It comes as almost no surprise that Auto Focus, a film about a television star with a scandalous private life, is directed by the man who wrote Taxi Driver, produced by the men who wrote Ed Wood and The People vs. Larry Flynt, and based on a book written by the man who also wrote extensively about the Zodiac Killer. They know controversy. (And how to write a good story.)

The television star in question is Bob Crane, star of Hogan's Heroes. Crane is played by Greg Kinnear and practically to a T. He displays Crane's likability when in the presence of fans wonderfully. When he's in the presence of those close to him, his personality takes a darker turn. It's when those two personalities blend at the wrong time that makes Kinnear's performance stand out in all the right ways.

Crane's major flaw was his addiction to sex. His friend John Carpenter (Willem Dafoe), a video expert, was responsible for adding fuel to that poisonous fire. Seeing Crane plummet into an unhealthy obsession is just truly mesmerizing and haunting.

Much like how Ben Affleck portrayed George Reeves in Hollywoodland, Kinnear plays Crane as a man embittered by the failure of his career once his TV show got cancelled. He wants people to see he's a legit actor. The problem is no one can really see a TV star making it in the movies.

Although not precisely accurate in some of the minor details, Auto Focus is still a very fascinating film to watch. Director Paul Schrader isn't afraid to expose the seedy side of life. (This is the same man who wrote Taxi Driver after all.) This also confirms my belief that 2002 was the year of the underrated film.

My Rating: *****

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