The Doors

Rated: R
Runtime: 2 Hours and 20 Minutes

Reviewer: Dale
Grade: A

Okay, I am not the world's biggest Oliver Stone fan. In fact, I am barely ANY kind of Oliver Stone fan (see my "U Turn" review for further evidence). When he is at his worst, he directs some of the more pointless, style-over-substance pieces of existential claptrap that have ever offended the eyes.

When he is at his best, however, he weaves a delicate and mesmerizing spell. I didn't think his visual tendencies worked at all in "U Turn" and thought they worked only sporadically in "Natural Born Killers", both of which (I thought, and what more can I offer than my own opinion?) would have worked better if he had just given up the over-editing and insane camera behavior and just TOLD THE DAMN STORY! And "Born on the Fourth of July" was a whiny, annoying, "I-Am-An-Asshole-But-I-Am-Crippled-So-Feel-Sorry-For-Me-Woe-Is-Me" story that just irritated me when it should have been moving me. Even Tom Cruise could not make me give a rat turd about the outcome of this poor loser's story.

But when dealing with as obvious a stoner as Jim Morrison, how could one not rely on amazing, hallucinatory visuals? If we are to be taken deep into Morrison's world of excess and drugs and self-destruction, such a visual pallet is easily the best choice. Stone's style of dreamlike visuals and nightmare confrontations works here, possibly because of his obvious passion for the material. This passion glosses over many of the slow patches. Yes, Morrison is an insufferable asshole but, and here is the key to the whole thing, he WAS an insufferable asshole. He wanted it that way. Is he insufferable? Indeed! Is he fascinating? You bet.

Val Kilmer IS Morrison. Period. That's it. Kilmer has never been better and, from the looks of his current career, he never will again. He ceases to be Val Kilmer and simply BECOMES Jim Morrison (no shirt and all) warts and all. Morrison is not a likable guy. He is not portrayed as an angel. He is a poet, an agitator, a villain, an AntiChrist, a Drunk, a Drug Addict, an Asshole and a bad boyfriend. He is a control freak and he professes to bleed for his art at the same time that he alienates his entire audience. In fact, not just his audience. He alienates everyone who comes into contact with him with his existential bullshit or his misplaced rage (How angry can a rich, rock star really be? I mean, come on!). He writes great poetry and great songs. He uses and abuses the only woman who truly loves him (Meg Ryan, who is simply a revelation here in a rare, non-comedic role). He is undeniably human and an irrepressible fuck-up and it is so refreshing to see a person this maddeningly realistic portrayed on film. He is not a stereotype, he is not a cliche.

Neither is Meg Ryan as the woman who put up with his crap the longest. She is amazing as the woman who took what Morrison dished out, no matter how bad it got, and gladly returned to his side. I love her reaction to his death at the very end. She does not crack. She does not cry. She simply sits down and voices an exasperated sigh: half frustrated and half mournful. It is a great moment and it proves to all the naysayers that they are truly wrong: Meg is an excellent actress.

The rest of the actors are great too, making you feel the frustration and sometimes the exhilaration of being around Morrison. I bought these guys totally. Aside from the performances, however, the movie still holds it own. We never find our minds wandering. We never become bored. We may not necessarily like all the places that this movie takes us, but it never strikes any wrong notes. I especially love the way that Stone can navigate an entire story arc (a climb to stardom, a descent into madness) within the length of one song. The use of montage is sternly effective.

In short, this is one of the best rock and roll movies I have ever seen. It is spellbinding, intimate, blunt and often brilliant. And once you have seen it, you will never, ever want to be a rock star.