We'll see if anyone picks up the phone (probably not -- just this fall we've already gotten the biographical films 'Bright Star,' 'Coco Before Chanel,' 'The Damned United' and most recently, 'Amelia'). In the meantime, here's a look at some of the worst offenders of the form. Hollywood loves the Biopic. Since 1933, not a year has passed without at least one life story burned into celluloid. And as the years went on, the more of them they made. In '47 there were 2. In '67 there was only one. In '87 there were four and the genre was starting to feel pretty tired. In '07 there were a whopping 24, including Todd Haynes' ode to Dylan, 'I'm Not There.' Some said his creative take on a life was a wake-up call to Hollywood.
We'll see if anyone picks up the phone (probably not -- just this fall we've already gotten the biographical films 'Bright Star,' 'Coco Before Chanel,' 'The Damned United' and most recently, 'Amelia'). In the meantime, here's a look at some of the worst offenders of the form.
Oliver Stone has embraced rock stars ('The Doors') and presidents ('JFK,' 'Nixon,' 'W.'), so it's only natural that he would add one of history's most important tyrants to the family tree. In Stone's hands, Alexander the Great's (the miscast and badly-wigged Colin Farrell) bloody rampage through the ancient world was fueled by the fires of a raging oedipal complex. Poor mom. Don't people usually ran towards Angelina Jolie?
Madonna looks great, and her costumes are impressive, but when she takes to her balcony to belt, "Don't cry for me, Bway-nose-eye-rays," you get the distinct impression that the masses are huddled in order to better plug their ears. Accent coach, anyone? Alan Parker goes for big but eschews gravity by sidestepping the politics of his muse and her man, the fascist Argentine dictator, Juan Peron.
'Captain Eddie' (1945)
After a brief, Academy Award-winning opener (for effects), in which the Cap'n ditches his plane in the drink, the Captain talks. And remembers. And talks some more. Three weeks of floating at sea gives the Captain (Fred MacMurray, from TV's 'My 3 Sons') ample time to take anything his fellow floaters say as an excuse for a slow-dissolve flashback to yet another sentimental story of his youth. Biography by the numbers.
'The Boy in Blue' (1986)
Take one working class kid with a dream and lots of gumption. Add a coach with a soft side. Throw in some "impossible odds" and the form's go-to cliché (destiny), and what do you get? A tedious chronicle of a Canadian rower named Ned Hanlan (Nicholas Cage, completing this between 'Birdy' and 'Raising Arizona') who row, row, rowed his way to glory. Music up... and cut.
Casting against type, Tony Scott gives Keira Knightley an excuse to kick ass and take names as Domino Harvey, the real-life model-turned-bounty hunter who died at 33 from an overdose of pain killers. The filming is rough and dirty, the cutting is quick and noisy, and the machismo (mostly coming from Knightley) is set at 11, which is to say, it's a Tony Scott flick. But unlike 'Top Gun,' it's (sorta) true.
'The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc' (1999)
It worked with Nikita, so why not Joan? Lending his trademark heavy metal style to the most infamous of France's patron saints, Luc Besson transforms his latest muse (the game Milla Jovovich) into a martyr, capital M. He also gives her some good old fashioned motivation for her teenage blood lust, when she's made witness to the murder and rape (in that order) of her sister, a common biopic trick.
'The Babe Ruth Story' (1948)
It's a typical biopic pitfall: a filmmaker is so enamored with their subject that they either distort, or simply leave out, anything that might turn an audience against them. Oliver Stone was guilty with 'The Doors,' and Roy Del Ruth and writer-slash-apologist George Callahan are guilty here. And how! They distort, disregard, and dismiss so many facts about The Babe that they should have called this 'A Big Fat Lie About Baseball.'
'Beyond the Sea' (2004)
Kevin Spacey's determination to bring Bobby Darin to the screen was so sincere that the 45-year-old actor (Darin died at 37) took on all duties to make it happen. He sings! He acts! He writes! He directs! But Kevin Spacey the actor is in much better form here than Kevin Spacey the co-writer. And Kevin Spacey the singer's not half bad. But Kevin Spacey the director is downright lost.
'Great Balls of Fire!' (1989)
In adapting the book, filmmaker Jim McBride avoided one of the form's most common pitfalls -- attempting to chronicle the entire life -- but stepped right into another. Tone. It's a parody! No wait, it's a melodrama! Around the halfway point it becomes painfully clear that 'Balls' has embraced one of Lewis' better known traits: it's all over the place. Despite all this, Dennis Quaid and Winona Ryder are still the bees knees.