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Kid Stays in the Picture, The
The images accompanying this review are promotional stills that do not reflect the quality of the Blu-ray under review.
Legendary movie producer and former head of Paramount Pictures Robert Evans famously wrote his memoir in 1994, and even more famously recorded the audiobook version himself. Evans's storytelling style and verbal cadence was exploited and parodied on The Simpsons, Mr. Show, and on Patton Oswalt's first comedy album, among other places.
The 2002 documentary version of The Kid Stays in the Picture initially seems like it just shouldn't work, because it is essentially the illustrated audiobook. At the time of production, Evans was still recovering from a massive stroke, so his participation in the film was limited to recording snippets of new voice-over to augment the existing recorded stories and a brief wordless glimpse of him sitting pensive in his massive Beverly Hills home.
You've got to hand it to filmmakers Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen (previously Oscar-nominated for On the Ropes) for shaping Evans's treasure trove of schmoozy Hollywood anecdotes into a solidly structured rise-and-fall story. Visually the film depends almost entirely on stock footage and stock photographs but, thanks to then-novel digital manipulation, the viewer never feels like they are watching a flat, tasteful PBS special or an overblown PowerPoint.
Storywise, the film hits a lot of the expected bullet points: Becoming a film actor after Norma Shearer saw him dive into a pool, becoming Paramount studio head thanks to a glowing profile in The New York Times by future right-hand man Peter Bart, fighting with Frank Sinatra over Mia Farrow's role in Rosemary's Baby, turning Paramount's fortunes around with a slate of pictures that included Love Story, fighting with Coppola over (and, per Evans, rescuing) The Godfather, marrying Ali McGraw, losing Ali McGraw to Steve McQueen, going out on his own as a producer, making some hits, getting in over his head with cocaine, becoming persona non grata in Hollywood, and finally returning to producing as an elder statesman.
Only in the final quarter of the film does the anecdotal nature of the film start to play a bit rushed and jerky. It feels almost like the entire decade of the '80s is discussed in the same amount of time that is devoted to the shooting of Rosemary's Baby. Certainly, the availability of archival material might play into this, and Evans's self-satisfied snappy patter more than wallpapers over any minor gaps in viewers' pleasure.
The Kid Stays in the Picture pulls off the nifty trick of feeling like absolutely essential Hollywood history and breezy junk food all at once.
Another Kino BD-50 disc with a generous bitrate that is slightly undercut by an old video master. There's nothing majorly wrong with this AVC-encoded 1080p 1.85:1 presentation, but the look of the 2002-shot footage of Robert Evans's Woodland estate is not as sharp as one might hope, feeling distinctly dated. The majority of the film however is mostly stock footage and stock photos, which all looks quite good. The early digital manipulation of the photos is still quite impressive.
The soundtrack is presented in both DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround and DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo options. Both are well-designed, adding ambience to the Robert Evans voice-over that drives the film. An English subtitles option is provided.
All these bonus features are ported over from the Warner DVD release, although some of the titles have been slightly altered, for reasons I don't fully grasp. No matter, I will include the names utilized on the new disc.
- Audio commentary by directors Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen - A snappy info-packed discussion of the making of this doc, with the two directors each taking half of the film and talking over it. Morgen gets the first half, Burstein the second. Because they didn't record together, there are inevitably some repetitions of non-screen-specific asides, but it's not a major distraction.
- The Film That Saved Hollywood (7:44) - More like, the film that saved Robert Evans's job at Paramount. This is the sales pitch directed by Mike Nichols that Evans delivered to the Gulf and Western board that kept the studio from being shut down. The original Paramount film clips are not included, but Evans's modern-day comments on these films are interpolated in those gaps.
- On the Red Carpet (1:12) - Some brief comments from Evans about the documentary.
- Up Close with the Kid (5:12) - An interview from ABC's short-lived Nightline Up Close news magazine show.
- The Spirit of Life Award (15:18) - Evans is presented a humanitarian award by Larry King. He reminisces in his inimitable style during his acceptance.
- Lifetime Achievement Award (12:35) - Dick Clark and Dustin Hoffman introduce Evans, as he received the Producers Guild of America David O. Selznick Award in 2003.
- Showgirls on Evans (1:26) - A longer version of a clip from The David Susskind Show that appears in the feature.
- Evans Gag Reel (8:39) - Clips of Dustin Hoffman doing his Robert Evans impression on the set of Marathon Man. At one point, Hoffman impersonates Edward R. Murrow and interacts with Evans's Person to Person interview.
- The Truth According to Others: On the Red Carpet (11:08) - A smattering of memories and testimonials from Peter Bart, Arthur Hiller, Jack Valenti, Richard Zanuck, Robert's son Josh Evans, Leeza Gibbons, Craig Kilborn (!?!), Larry King, Matthew McConaughey, and others.
- Trailers - for this film and Filmworker.
The Kid Stays in the Picture offers just the right mix of gossip and gravitas in its portrait of one of the key players of '70s Hollywood (and beyond). The DVD was already a pretty swell package, and thankfully none of that material has been lost in the transfer to Blu-ray. The video could be a little more spiffed-up, but it's no major bug. The whole package comes Highly Recommended.
Justin Remer is a frequent wearer of beards. He directed a folk-rock documentary called Making Lovers & Dollars, which is now streaming. He also can found be found online reading short stories and rambling about pop music.