Posted by: smirkdirk | October 21, 2009

A Near Perfect Scene: Oliver Stone’s “The Doors”

(Blog Note: With this post I am going to begin a new category called “Near Perfect Scenes” which will be about movie scenes that are just awesome. Could be the only good scene in a crap film – it doesn’t matter. If its the kind of scene that made me stop the DVD and watch it again, I’m going to write about it and try to analyze what made it so awesome. In doing this, I’m going to try to avoid scenes that everybody has already analyzed to death so there will be no talking about GoodFellas, or Citizen Kane, or Pulp Fiction. This is about scenes that generally go unnoticed.)

The Thanksgiving Scene from “The Doors”

Link Here – (Unfortunately embedding is not available for this clip.) Go ahead and watch the clip first.

I picked up “The Doors” on the cheap recently. ($2.50! Yup, pawn shop…) I remember when it came out. I had recently graduated high school and I got sort of excited for it when MTV had begun playing “Break On Through” as a music video. Some of the girls I knew in my freshman year at college had posters of Morrison on the their walls, and one of my good chick friends in high school was a Doors freak. He definitely seemed worthy of emulation, and hell, the music wasn’t half bad either.

When it finally came out I never did go to see it in the theatre, and when I finally saw it on video I lost interest. Jim Morrison as played by Val Kilmer is a guy on a lot of drugs who’s a huge, pretentious dick. Granted, he is kinda cool, but just not very likable. It pretty much went in one eyeball and out the other. After that I never thought much about the movie other than it being one of the early weak points of Oliver Stone’s, generally, very strong career.

Nearly 20 years later with the hype way behind us, and my disappointment with my initial viewing forgotten, I gave the film another chance. Last night as I was watching I got to the Thanksgiving scene. It cracked me up. Everything about it is perfect, but particularly worthy of mention is Val Kilmer’s (who’s career has always been either fizzled or about to fizzle) excellent acting. Throughout the movie he not only is uncannily like Morrison in how he looks and handles himself, but even if he weren’t doing a Morrison impression he hits all the right notes. His facial expressions throughout this particular scene are, actually, high comedy.

The Acting: – pretty much Kilmer is the dickish, yet rascally Morrison – and need I mention, in this particular scene, hilarious. The look on his face as he says “sometimes” is perfect. Meg Ryan complements him to a tee here as the LSD-addled and confused Pam. She flawlessly pulls off feigned self-confidence while so obviously having absolutely none. (This is not to mention that, because of Kilmer’s amazingly dead on impersonation, Ryan throughout the film is upstaged by him, even though she does some rather seamless character acting. Its a thankless job.)

The Sound: The scene really starts up when “Love Me Two Times” starts playing. The choice to put this song at this particular place in the movie is near genius. The whole scene essentially revolves around Morrison “two-timing” Pam – adding a whole new layer of meaning to the song itself. The volume of the music increases to a crescendo accompanied by the added sound effect of the knife being unsheathed as Pam grabs it from the table to stab Morrison, while visually the fight plays out to its frenetic end.

The mise en scene: (What a snoot!) For some reason, as the entire house party joins the fight to separate the two, they move in front of the picture window so, in essence, the entire party is seen in almost silhouette, bathed in the light of the sunshine. (And, it would seem to me, these are a group of people who are not that used to being awake and active during the day hours.) I’m not sure if its symbolic or what, but the swivel and jostle of the camera to follow the party paired with the crescendo of the music just makes the heart jump.

The Script: Particularly the end of the scene. The organic end truly seems to be the grabbing of the knife, and the cut of the music. But no, the scene doesn’t end here. Instead, we have a moment of utter silence. And then, rather anti-climacticly, Jim, the drama king, starts in about death and Kilmer/Stone further reinforce the character with an extra-heavy layering of pompous ass-o-city. And then the climax instead becomes a slight giggle as Billy Idol tells Ray to fuck off and the fat houseguest picks up the now ruined duck off the floor with every intent to eat it anyway.

Although I’ve always considered this one of Stone’s weakest movies, now, almost twenty years later I might have to concede that it is actually a pretty strong movie. The weaknesses of it are not in the film-making itself, but rather the subject matter. The life of this particular rock n’ roll star is hardly admirable or glamourous. The Morrison that Stone chose to hand the audience was a huge jerk and hardly the cool, suave sophisticate that I had expected twenty years ago. It didn’t matter that he was a drug addict, or a womanizer, or a self-aggrandizing no-talent poet – all of these things are just symptoms of Stone/Kilmer/Morrison’s real problem; He was just, quite simply, a dick.

Whether or not this portrayal of Morrison is accurate, I don’t know, and to be honest, I don’t care. Either way, he makes a good movie as long as you know what to be in for beforehand.

Here’s the trailer.


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