Framing John Delorean: Tribeca

‘Framing John Delorean’ tries its best to break boundaries, but ends conforming to the conventional. The vox pops of industry has-beens throwing in their ten cents to propel the narrative forward is just too familiar, no different to a Channel Four documentary. While Delorean’s life story keeps it afloat, the documentary never fully commits to what it is, unlike the man himself.

After leaving a cushy job at General Motors to pursue his dream of making an affordable, aesthetically pleasing sports car, we see a man driven to succeed by any means. These means included a desperate attempt to maintain his cash flow, by investing in a multi-million dollar cocaine smuggling job. A scandalous trial ensues, eventually spewing up a not guilty verdict. A moment his son balks at when he thinks of what Hollywood would do to the story about his father. ‘Hollywood would take that moment and end it with his fists pumping when he came out of that courtroom.’ His reservations show that that victory was just the beginning of a downward spiral for the family.

In fact one of the most poignant parts of the documentary are the brief interviews with his kids. His son, who in photos from the time looks like the picturesque upper middle class Los Angeles kid, indifferently shows the crew around his dingy, damp apartment in New Jersey. And Delorean’s daughter, a self-proclaimed fan of her father, even proudly shows her telling art school illustrations. It opens up a dark window into her adolescence, substituting the DMC of Delorean Motor Company’s initials to the more appropriate,‘Destroy My Childhood.’

Its differentiator in the production pitch was undoubtedly the ‘reenactments’ of Delorean’s life strewn amidst historical footage and interviews. There’s a similarity to how Louis Theroux approached his derisive Scientology movie, a project which wasn’t received well when he tried to tackle a monster topic. Alec Baldwin is cast as Delorean, a curious choice on first viewing but his demeanor grows on you. Although the reconstruction is intended to give you a glimpse of Delorean’s character, its purpose is more of an illustration of events, leaving little by way of exposition.

The Irish connection is always a nice touch, a gentle reminder of how he built a factory in one of the most lethal regions of the world at the time, at the height of the Troubles. One of the most famous uses of a Delorean is of course its place as Doc Brown’s time machine in the Back to the Future franchise. Delorean Motor Company had already gone into liquidation when the film was released, leaving many to wonder if that priceless and timeless promotion of his futuristic sports car would have turned his fate around. 

Delorean’s drive was unmatched for his time, completely unsatisfied with living out his years on a stuffy board of one of the most successful car companies in the world, he wanted to build one on his own. You leave the theatre with a wonderful respect for the man who was unrelenting in his determination to create something new, despite the questionable avenues he took to get there.