19 August 2003 | Buddy-51
a must-see for movie lovers
`The Kid Stays in the Picture,' a documentary about famed movie producer and studio head Robert Evans, begins like `The Great Gatsby,' a film Evans produced in 1974. To the wistful strains of `What'll I Do?' playing in the background, the camera glides lovingly over the furnishings, pictures and memorabilia that adorn Evans' Bel Air mansion and estate. The comparison is an apt one, for, like Gatsby, Evans was a wunderkind, a handsome young go-getter who knew early on the kind of life he wanted to lead and who willed himself to attain it. With a combination of good looks, charm, ambition and just a bit of plain old-fashioned good luck, he managed to go from being a mediocre movie actor to becoming the head of Paramount Studios in the course of a mere decade. And what a decade it was! Evans had a major hand in not only lifting Paramount from ninth to first place among Hollywood's major studios, but in bringing such films as `Rosemary's Baby,' `True Grit,' `Love Story,' `Chinatown' and, of course, `The Godfather' to movie screens everywhere.
`The Kid Stays in the Picture' is a dream-come-true for hardcore cinephiles, providing a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into one of the true Golden Ages of Hollywood filmmaking. Evans' story is, in fact, the story of that time, for truly he hobnobbed with virtually every one of the key players responsible for that era. Evans' tale follows a fairly conventional arc for men of his type: the ambitious kid with dreams of larger-than-life glory achieves meteoric success in the entertainment business only to have his ambitions dashed on the shores of rampant egotism, overconfidence and drug addiction. In fact, Evans' life would make perfect fodder for a film of its own, as this documentary and the positive response to it demonstrates. Evans himself narrates the film, and although he tends to be a bit easier on himself than an outsider might have been, he is still willing to chastise himself when he feels it's called for and to render some rather startlingly unflattering assessments of certain major players on the Hollywood scene. He is, also, however, utterly devoted to those he feels have stuck by him through good times and bad, and he is not averse to lavishing praise on others when it is due. One objection to Evans' narration is that he doesn't always speak with the utmost clarity, sometimes making what he says come out garbled and incomprehensible.
As a piece of filmmaking, `The Kid Stays in the Picture' offers a kaleidoscopic array of stills, film clips and reenactments that reflect the temper and mood of the time. Directors Brett Morgan and Nanette Burstein obviously pored through a wealth of material on the subject, culling from it a comprehensive, streamlined and fast-moving narrative that grips the audience with its humor, its sadness and its tribute to the indomitableness of the human spirit. For if Evans' story is about anything, it is about how important it is for each individual to achieve his dreams and how equally vital it is for that same person, once he has fallen down, to pick himself up off the floor so that he can continue pursuing that dream.
`The Kid Stays in the Picture' is a wonderful time capsule for those who love movies. No true film fan should miss it.