Success. Scandal. Sex. Tragedy. Infamy.
The life and times of producer Robert Evans was fraught with more twists and turns than even his best films. The Kid Stays in the Picture—a quote taken from studio head Darryl F. Zanuck after the stars requested Evans ousted in a film during his acting days—runs the gamut of women, sex, drugs, successes, murder, stars, houses, broken careers, and a dozen other ups and downs. Legendary screen star Norma Shearer spotted Evans while he working in New York manufacturing women's clothing. This event would change the course of his life—after a brief stint acting in films (including the biopic The Man With 1,000 Faces as Shearer's real life hubby), Evans went on to one of the most successful producing streaks in Hollywood and the man who literally saved Paramount. As the head of Paramount Pictures, Evans ushered in a streak of hits, including The Godfather, The Odd Couple, Chinatown, and Rosemary's Baby, just to name a few. But what goes up must come down, and Evans came down crashing and burning. In the 1980s his hits dried up with the high profile flop The Cotton Club. His wife, actress Ali MacGraw (who starred in the Evans produced hit Love Story), left him for superstar Steve McQueen. Evans was busted in part of a cocaine sting and loosely linked (though not a suspect) to the death of a man who was only slightly involved with a film's financing. In short, Evans hit rock bottom. Then, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Evans came back with a vengeance and began producing again. This is his story. And for Evans, the kid truly did stay in the pictures.
Over the past century Hollywood has been as interested in itself as it has been in the product it promotes. As tabloids and periodicals show, audiences love gossip—and no one was better at perpetuating gossip than sometime actor/producer Robert Evans. And so it's only fitting that Evans himself narrates The Kid Stays in the Picture, a documentary that drives us through his turbulent career, marriage, self-destruction, and comeback. Watching The Kid Stays in the Picture I was struck at how great a documentary this was, both in the visuals and the narrative. Directed and produced by Brett Morgan and Nanette Burstein (On the Ropes ), The Kid Stays in the Picture is cobbled together from old archival footage and many vintage photographs. Through animation and graphics, Burstein and Morgan are able to make stagnant images jump to life before our eyes—the way they do this is a wonder to behold.
Evans himself makes for a great narrator; his voice sounds worn and weathered, as if he'd seen everything and was looking to share a cautionary tale with the audience. One of the intriguing things about The Kid Stays in the Picture is that it doesn't attempt to gloss over Evans life (the film is based on Evans' book of the same name). Evans himself is somewhat self-depreciating, pointing out equal parts success and times when he was a complete buffoon (he's especially hard on himself about his divorce to MacGraw). Though his life was filled with sex, drugs, and debauchery, the guy still comes off as likable—a little kooky, but definitely likable. The stories and supporting cast are what really make this film come alive. Jack Nicholson begging the owner of Robert's house to sell it back to him. Evans experiences making inspirational drug-free promo spots after his drug bust. The trials and tribulations with director Francis Ford Coppola over The Godfather. While Evans' previous marriages and deep family issues have been left out, you get the feeling it's due in part to time constraints more than anything—by this point I think Evans is past being shy about certain details of his life. For those looking to find out more about this eccentric producer, check out his book. Otherwise, this documentary is an easy recommendation.
The Kid Stays in the Picture is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Collected photographs, stills, archival film footage, and interview segments all look fine, though some sport more of a worn look than others. Overall this transfer is in decent shape with the black levels and colors (there are a lot of 'em) solid and well defined. Though the speckles and grain in some archival footage sometimes annoys, overall the image looks very presentable. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. Evans' voice is the most prominent feature in this mix—his aged to perfection drawl narrates while various pop songs and music by Jeff Danna floats in and out of the background. I was happily surprised to find this mix to be engaging and thorough. The mix is free of any excessive hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English, Spanish, and French subtitles.
Warner has generously included a few fine extra features on this disc. One of the most interesting extras is the film that Evans shot (with director Mike Nichols) to sway the heads of Paramount to keep the studio open. Evans' cheesy dramatic delivery is both moving and hysterically entertaining. Under the section "The Kid Speaks" are various interview segments on CBS and on the red carpet with Evans, Evans receiving the Spirit of Life award, and the Lifetime Achievement award (with Dustin Hoffman and Dick Clark making speeches on Evans' behalf). Though most of these are interesting for one reason or another, most are just self-congratulatory segments. A commentary track by the directors provides viewers with background information about how the film came into being, their thoughts on Evans and his story, and how some of the visuals were achieved. "Showgirls on Evans" features some older ladies talking about Evans (and how sexy he is), and a gag reel offers viewers a glimpse of Hoffman and Roy Scheider doing funny impressions of Evans. "On the Red Carpet" includes various celebrities talking about Evans, including Richard D. Zanuck, Robert Whul, Craig Kilborn, Jack Valenti, Arthur Hiller, Larry King, and Brett Ratner, among others. Finally, there's a short list of credits for Evans and the directors, as well as a full frame theatrical trailer for the film.
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