"There are three sides to every story: my side, your side and the truth."
This quote opens "The Kid Stays In The Picture", the new documentary about producer and former studio head Robert Evans, which is based upon his autobiography. This is purely Evans's side of the story, but it's told in grand fashion and presented marvelously by directors Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein.
The picture opens with Evans discussing his stint as an actor. Already a successful businessman at an early age, he was spotted by a pool and signed to star in "Man of a Thousand Faces". In a later film, studio head Daryl Zanuck even went against the wishes of the cast and crew, who wanted Evans out - he declared, "the kid stays in the picture", which is where the title of both book and film came from.
His acting career stalled out soon enough, as all it took was one flop for Evans to be out of the acting business. Still, the actor had had enough of a taste of the business that he set out to become head of a studio. Soon enough, at a young age and with hardly any experience, Evans found himself the head of Paramount, a studio that had fallen on tough times at that point. Within a few years, he had begun to change the studio around, bringing in unexpected hits like "Rosemary's Baby", "The Godfather", "Love Story" and "Chinatown". As classic as those films became, their road to the screen was definitely not easy and those stories (Evans's battles with Coppola over "The Godfather", Evans pushing Polanski to finish "Rosemary's Baby") serve as the very entertaining main body of "Kid Stays in the Picture".
However, where there's a rise, there's also a fall: "Kid" recounts the producer's marriage to Ali McGraw, which failed when McGraw was found to be having an affair. It also discusses, although not in great detail, the enormous failure of "The Cotton Club", the 1984 re-teaming of Evans and Ford Coppola. Eventually, when Evans finally hits his lowest point, those who have stood by his side over the many years (especially Jack Nicholson) help him get things back together for a return to the producing business at Paramount.
I certainly haven't given away all that happens in "Kid", which honestly does an amazing job compressing years of history into a sleek, fast-moving 91 minutes. The story itself is never less than riveting, but the directing duo have gotten every other detail down wonderfully. They have provided loads of stills, clips and other material documenting the producer's career and even brought in ace cinematographer John Bailey to film some additional footage. The editing, as previously mentioned, is stellar. Best of all is the producer's hilariously profane narration.
Certainly, this is a one-sided look at the life of Evans and, although the directors have attempted to make him out to be the "hero", he clearly reaches that point on his own. Whatever he's done wrong in his life, I admired him because the successful films that he did at Paramount in the 70's seemed mostly pushed forward through production because he believed in them when others didn't.
By the end, as Evans makes his triumphant return to Hollywood, the documentary had built up this incredible story so wonderfully, I was almost disapointed that a title card before the credits had to tell the whole truth: in the 90's, Evans went on to produce: "Sliver", "Jade", "The Phantom", "The Out-of-Towners" and "The Saint".
Still, I think "The Kid Stays in the Picture" is one of the most entertaining pictures that I've seen all year. Evans recounts his legendary stories with entertaining flair and enjoyable details. The piece is also one of the most beautifully crafted documentaries that I've seen in quite some time. "Kid" is a must-see for anyone even remotely interested in the film business.