Judge Clark Douglas tends to do things his wife's way.
There's no business like his business.
"Jerry Weintraub" is one of those names you probably recall hearing at some point but can't quite place. Though he's not a household name in the average American neighborhood, he's something of a legend in show business. Over the course of his long and storied careered, he's managed such high-profile musical acts as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, John Denver, The Carpenters, and Led Zeppelin, in addition to producing a generous smattering of well-regarded films including Nashville, The Karate Kid, Diner, and Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Trilogy. He knows everyone, he's seen everything, and he has a lot of great stories to tell. As you might expect, the Weintraub-centric doc His Way offers plenty of fun anecdotes, even if it never manages to become more than the sum of its parts.
Initially, I feared His Way was going to be an incredibly tedious experience, as the first few minutes of the film are devoted to one celebrity after another fawning over the man: "He's so amazing…he's like a father figure…he's a genius among geniuses…he's one of the greatest men I've ever known." I'm paraphrasing, but that's the general idea. Thankfully, after the miscalculated introduction (it's unwise to start piling showers of praise on a guy before we've learned anything about what he's done to earn such praise) the film primarily focuses on Weintraub and allows him to do what he does best: capture our attention with his charmingly larger-than-life stories of behind-the-scenes adventures.
Though His Way is rarely as commanding or entertaining as the Robert Evans confessional The Kid Stays in the Picture, Weintraub's enthusiasm for the life he's lived is kind of infectious. When he recalls his initial encounters with Presley and Sinatra (two of the best stories this film has to offer), his eyes light up as if he's nothing more than a youthful fan recounting his brush with greatness. If Weintraub's accounts of events are to be believed, he stumbled into fame and fortune through a fortunate blend of cleverness, earnest naivete and luck. His swanky life wasn't handed down to him; his story is a heartening tale of pulling-oneself-up-by-the-bootstraps work ethic.
The lengthy passage covering his musical career is the strongest, as it offers the richest stories and the most insight into the details of Weintraub's work. His movie career is brushed over with relative speed, and a disproportionate amount of time is spent on Ocean's Eleven so we can hear one story after another of George Clooney playing pranks on the increasingly disgruntled producer (admittedly, these are very entertaining, but the film's importance is over-emphasized for the sake of spending an extended amount of time with the high-profile stars of that flick). During its final act, His Way details the peculiar relationship between Weintraub, his wife Jane Morgan and his live-in girlfriend Susie Ekins. The odd relationship is held up as a tribute to Weintraub's ingenuity as a producer: he can talk people into anything and he can make anything work.
If His Way has a weakness, it's that either Weintraub or the filmmakers aren't comfortable focusing on the darker passages in his life. Sure, his more adorable flaws are discussed at length (his womanizing in particular), but subjects like his troubled first marriage, his nasty broken friendship with John Denver, and the meltdown of his movie career during the late 1980s are barely commented on. The fun stories are…well, fun, but the film's insistence on avoiding the uglier stuff occasionally makes His Way feel more like a lavish bonus feature than a proper documentary. Still, it's fun enough to merit a look, especially if you enjoy this kind of "inside baseball" stuff (which I certainly do).
The film looks excellent on DVD, though there's not a whole lot to observe aside from some talking heads. The packaging heavily promotes the inclusion of clips of musical acts and films from Weintraub's career, but these are actually pretty minimal (as are other stills, bits of archival footage and so on). Audio is solid throughout, with a score by Rachel Portman (overqualified for this sort of thing, but a nice effort nonetheless) blending unobtrusively with the dialogue. The only supplement is some additional footage of Weintraub talking about his first job in the Air Force.
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