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Overall Rating
3.74

Awesome35.14%
Worth A Look: 28.38%
Average: 17.57%
Pretty Bad: 13.51%
Total Crap: 5.41%

5 reviews, 44 user ratings


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Doors, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"There's a killer on the road, his brain is squirmin' like a toad..."
4 stars

If Jim Morrison hadn't been born, Oliver Stone would've had to invent him.

Morrison, the notorious lead singer and lyricist of the short-lived '60s band The Doors (he died in 1971, and the band more or less died with him), is the perfect subject for Stone, a Doors fan whose movies (Born on the Fourth of July, Platoon, Salvador, and so on) all focus on frazzled, fucked-up antiheroes. Stone's film about Morrison, The Doors, gives him the chance to delve into the psycho-psychedelic imagery he could only touch on in his earlier work. Much of the movie is ridiculous: Stone has never known restraint. But it's also enjoyable in a jittery, hyperbolic way, and parts of it are undeniably moving.

Though the credits name no single source used for the film, the script (by Stone and J. Randal Johnson) seems to lean heavily on the anecdotes in the 1980 Morrison biography No One Here Gets Out Alive, by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman. Like that book, The Doors has a mournful tone, an ache of regret about a rock god who got trapped in his own mystical, self-destructive obsessions and wound up bloated and dead in a bathtub.

The saddest thing about Morrison is that, at the end, he had become a '60s clichι like Jimi and Janis (he used to say to people, "You're drinking with number three"), just another casualty of the era of excess. A ferociously inventive and literate performer, Morrison had an aura of dangerous energy fueled by sex and death, and it consumed him, though it was what his fans responded to. He was larger than life, and you can hear it in the songs — even a rinky-dink number like "Love Street" plays like a mini-epic. He was definitely getting at something; as with Kurt Cobain, though, it's hard to know how Morrison would've evolved as an artist had he lived past his twenties. Some artists genuinely don't seem built to last.

In The Doors, Morrison (Val Kilmer) is presented as a rebel who smirks at authority and alienates everyone around him, but, except for a couple of shots of the books he reads (Mailer, Kerouac, Rimbaud's A Season in Hell), the film doesn't give us a sense of his other, mitigating side — the rock idol as poet/philosopher. Val Kilmer is an uncanny ringer for Morrison and turns in a vivid, fiery performance, but Stone allows him very few moments of peace. (He's quiet only when he's stoned.) So we leave with an excellent idea of what a maniacal prick Morrison was, but no idea why his lover Pamela (Meg Ryan) or his bandmates — keyboardist Ray Manzarek (Kyle MacLachlan), drummer John Densmore (Kevin Dillon), guitarist Robby Krieger (Frank Whaley) — put up with him.

Stone only has eyes for Morrison, but the supporting players provide some variety and work wonders. They have to do it in the background, though. Of all the cast members (and it's a huge cast), I responded most readily to MacLachlan, who, as the bespectacled, hippy-dippy Manzarek, is like a shaggy version of his Agent Cooper on Twin Peaks, and alsoto Meg Ryan, whose Pamela is a walking wound — she's looking for a daddy, and the Lizard King sure isn't him. There are a few surprises from Kevin Dillon, who manages to get away from his sneering-punk persona. He's amusing much of the time. Most of the laughs, though, come from the theater veteran Michael Wincott (he was the stoned rock star Kent in Stone's Talk Radio) as Doors producer Paul Rothchild. He's so funny when he's bitching at Morrison for being too drunk to cut a song that he steals every scene he's in, and adds much-needed relief to an often somber movie.

In the '60s nightclub scenes, Stone goes all out — he's in his element. Shot very close in, with the camera wobbling as if mounted on a waterbed, these sequences are visually dense; everywhere you look, there's a familiar face. Billy Idol shows up, on crutches, as a groupie named Cat, and lots of other stars and musicians pop in: Eric Burden, Billy Vera, Mimi Rogers, Crispin Glover (as bizarre as ever) as Andy Warhol, Paul Williams as a Warhol hanger-on, Stone himself (bearded) as a film professor at UCLA, where Morrison made avant-garde movies. Stone also recruits a few figures from Morrison's life: Patricia Kennealy (played here by Kathleen Quinlan), whom Morrison impregnated and drank blood with, appears as a priestess in one of Morrison's many hallucinations; Densmore and Krieger serve as musical consultants. The movie feels like an uneasy testament made to Morrison by those who loved him.

The druggy craziness of Morrison's milieu isn't particularly glorified. The audience is cued to giggle at the stoned blatherings of Morrison and the band when they're tripping on acid in the desert, and Pamela pukes on Morrison's shirt. (It's similar to the peyote episode in Young Guns.) Stone walks a cautious line here: we recognize that the drugs and booze enabled Morrison to write such stuff as "The End" and "Riders on the Storm," but we also see that the price of this drug-induced creativity is monstrously high. Stone doesn't preach; he doesn't have it in him. (He came back from Vietnam with a troublesome drug addiction.) But he doesn't candy-coat the material.

When Morrison, whacked out of his skull at a college gig in Miami, spits a few obscenities at the phalanx of guards surrounding him onstage and then begins slowly, seductively, to strip (leading to his arrest for indecent exposure), we see him through the eyes of the other Doors members, who seem to be thinking "Oh, God, not again." And when, at a Thanksgiving party Pamela is hosting, he throws the duck she has cooked onto the floor and stomps on it, we see him through her eyes — the ultimate wild-card husband. Morrison is an outsider to the band and to Pamela; he's an outsider to himself, and certainly to us. Yet he has our sympathy, because when we see Morrison through the lens of his intimates, we share their feelings: anger, yes, embarrassment, sure, but mostly unspeakable sadness.

'The Doors' paints a laceratingly clear picture of talent eating itself.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=855&reviewer=416
originally posted: 03/05/07 12:49:52
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User Comments

5/11/14 PAUL SHORTT INTENSE, WELL MADE BIOPIC, WITH A GOOD STAR PERFORMANCE 4 stars
8/20/13 Fire With Fire Riot and burn,says Oliver Stone. But leave his multi-million $ mansion ALONE. HYPOCRITE!!!! 1 stars
8/18/10 art CREEPY AND DEPRESSING! 1 stars
8/10/08 Kyle Boylan Its a great movie(can't wait to watch it while I trip) 5 stars
5/15/08 Jack Sommersby Lacks dramatic depth but Kilmer's performance and recreation of the time and place is A+. 4 stars
1/31/08 Shelbie Awesome! A great idea of what Jim and that era were like. Not enough of his poetic side.. 5 stars
11/10/07 Jackson This is OLIVER STONES JIM MORRISON dont get confused 2 stars
10/16/07 Anthony Tassone A gripping movie. It stays with you after you see it. Great insight into Morrisons life 4 stars
1/15/07 David Pollastrini could have done without the Shaman stuff 4 stars
10/10/06 albert A VERY GOOD MOVIE. 4 stars
1/05/06 Agent Sands This just might get me back into an Oliver Stone kick. I mean the guy is a GENIUS. 5 stars
10/06/05 Denise Cusack I concur with the reviews' overview 4 stars
8/22/05 Jeree I really enjoyed this film! 5 stars
2/15/05 Mr. Durden This movie cannot be put into words and be done justice, It's a must see. 5 stars
12/01/04 chloe i really felt inebriated! Kilmer is my idol, next to Jim, of course. 5 stars
11/02/04 jeff this movie kicked 5 stars
9/17/04 Ryan I loved this movie it had mostly everything correct to Jim life and that of The Doors 4 stars
6/20/04 Tim Superb film, so much content of Jims life, makes me wana time-travel and join him 4 a beer 5 stars
5/13/04 John hypmotic and intense with great performances butis it authentic? 4 stars
5/23/03 Biff Boffo Surely Morrison, being an arteeest, had to have more than 1 dimension to his being?! 2 stars
2/07/03 Dee-Dee awsome, tells the true life of the doors 4 stars
1/21/03 Climhazzard This is a GREAT movie. Don't tell me that you wouldn't live like Jim did if in the 60's. 5 stars
10/14/02 Charles Tatum The great music and Kilmer lift this above the normal Stone slop 4 stars
3/31/02 Jenny Tullwartz Good bio, and shows how Meg Ryan could be a serious actress. 5 stars
3/01/02 Butterbean Kilmer made the perfect Morrison! A good biopic 4 stars
9/17/01 Bri Awsome! 5 stars
8/10/01 E-Funk A very honest, harrowing depiction of a musical God. Stone scores again. 5 stars
6/19/01 G-MAN Read "No One Here Gets Out Alive" first. It'll make more sense to you. 4 stars
6/15/01 Law Firm of Dewey, Cheatam & Howe Great pic tho the wigs are ALL fucking horrible 4 stars
4/01/01 Jesse L If you don't like this movie, you are too old... 5 stars
1/31/01 mehmet erkmen lack of morrison 1 stars
11/06/00 jkl;jojekl;nsa most awsome 5 stars
6/20/00 Ryan Mccollum Trip well worth it 5 stars
6/16/00 drew raley Stone seems very enamoured of his self-invoked status as '60scultural tourguide. Whoops. 2 stars
5/01/00 perverted pixie Up there with "Sid & Nancy" in terms of great rock bio-pic's. I loved it madly! 5 stars
10/11/99 Weird Andy As boring and overwrought as an actual Doors album. 2 stars
6/15/99 Dylan Fantastic biopic. Stone delivers again and Kilmer presents us with an acceptable Jim. 4 stars
11/28/98 Mr.Pink It lighted my fire alright! 5 stars
11/13/98 Lord Of The Dunce Kilmer really gives it a shake, but there's not enough here for a movie. Stone embelishes. 3 stars
10/24/98 Vincent An awesome piece of filmmaking, loses a lot on video (even ltbx) though 5 stars
10/03/98 wind excellent movie...watchin it right now...jim was pretty cool 5 stars
9/16/98 Lonatic Another Stone OPINION movie! Oliver Stone sucks as a diector/writer whatever he isn't.. 1 stars
9/15/98 cheryl_ann kickin flick, but i brought upon an a flashback for me. i dunno if that's good or bad. 4 stars
9/06/98 Helle Marie Allright, this is exxellent, beaudiful and fuckin` great! Val does a great job as Morrison 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  01-Mar-1991 (R)
  DVD: 12-Dec-2006

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