The Kid Stays in the Picture Review

Aug 02, 2002 | 5:03am EDT

Robert Evans was still in his 20s when on a business trip to Los Angeles for his brother's successful Evan-Picone clothing business actress Norma Shearer discovered him poolside and tapped him for the role of her late husband in the biopic Man of a Thousand Faces. A few years and a few films later after Evans realized he preferred pulling the strings on the other side of the camera he landed jobs with 20th Century Fox and Paramount where he ran the studio during its golden era. As an executive and independent producer Evans is credited with dozens of films including such classics as Love Story The Godfather Chinatown and occasional stinkers like the notoriously plagued and maligned The Cotton Club. Evans also found time for many affairs and marriages including his headline-grabbing union with Ali MacGraw. Besides the Cotton Club disaster Evans was rocked by both personal and professional setbacks including cocaine abuse tangential connections to The Cotton Club murder case financial ruin and a near-fatal stroke. But with a lot of help from important friends and his own passion and determination to prevail Evans returned to producing and remains today an active Hollywood mover and shaker.

Working mostly in voiceover Evans makes the most of his almost preternatural magnetism and talent for irresistible gab and engaging storytelling. Armed with good looks and a silky voice that also (sometimes ironically) screams intimacy and honesty Evans leverages his telegenic gifts and insider stature to the max. In his famously seductive and often wise-ass voice he narrates over a lively amalgam of rare footage stills and cinematic surprises that delivers a Photoplay-like chunk of Hollywood glamour that is as nostalgic as it is entertaining.

Yes directors Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein were blessed with a terrific subject and terrific access but their documentary is just as terrifically crafted. The filmmakers digitally enhancing their material move back and forth between archival footage home movies stills etc. to deliver a lively and kinetic portrait of Evans. Avoiding the usual talking heads Morgen and Burstein employ a highly original style of visuals voiceover and spot-on music to convey the life time and traumas of a still-kickin' Hollywood legend. Look for The Kid Stays in the Picture to cop an Oscar nom if not the award itself.

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