‘Framing John DeLorean’ Review: The Man Who Flew His Car Too Close to the Sun

“Framing John DeLorean,” a smart, hook-filled blend of documentary and fictionalized re-enactments, opens with a question: Why haven’t more movies been made about John DeLorean? Because the story of the maverick, egocentric automaker, whose name is practically synonymous with the excesses of the midcentury American car industry, is ready-made for the silver screen.

DeLorean, who died in 2005, was an executive at G.M. before breaking with the company in the 1970s to start his own, which created the stainless-steel gull-wing sports car for which he is best known. DeLorean’s maneuvering to open a manufacturing plant in Northern Ireland at the height of sectarian violence there could sustain a whole feature — as could his spectacular fall, spurred by a drug-trafficking sting operation that yielded video of him holding a bag of cocaine and proclaiming it “better than gold.”

A short film about him was indeed released in 1981. This movie makes a running joke out of the subsequent drought, with titles introducing film-industry talking heads as, say, “Producer, Yet Another Unmade DeLorean Film.” One interview subject, the actor Alec Baldwin, recalls how he was once contacted by DeLorean himself to discuss a potential biopic.

The directors Sheena M. Joyce and Don Argott leaven archival and interview footage with dramatizations, starring Baldwin as DeLorean, that add imaginative weight and a backdrop of ’70s and ’80s pop culture and kitsch. It is a quintessentially American story of ambition and greed, with plot twists a fiction writer might consider outlandish. It is also a story of the wreckage the man left behind, specifically as seen through the eyes of his children.

“Framing John DeLorean” doesn’t fully answer its own central question, and leaves several others hanging as well. As frustrating as this can be in hindsight, the movie, while it’s playing, is unfailingly engrossing.

Framing John DeLorean
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 49 minutes.

Framing John DeLorean

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