The Doors MAG

By Unknown, Unknown, Unknown

    This movie is R rated. Those under 17 must be accompanied by an adult.

Director Oliver Stone is responsible for some of the most powerful pictures of the '80s. Whether it be his Oscar-winning "Platoon," the brash, cynical "Talk Radio," or his passionate anti-war epic "Born on the Fourth of July," his movies always push the viewer to the edge of the abyss, leaving you mesmerized at the destruction that lies before your eyes. Well, Stone has finally leaped off the edge and into mass hysteria. His screen biography of the legendary rock group "The Doors" is a disturbing film that goes way too far in trying to keep its "drugs don't pay" theme. It stars Val ("Top Gun") Kilmer as the doomed poet/lead singer/pop icon Jim Morrison, whose drug-filled whirlwind of a life erupted in 1971 when he died of a heart attack in Paris at the age of 27.

The film is so real it's almost is if you are watching an actual documentary. Give the director credit; Stone pours all his emotion into re-creating the '60s in all its bawdiness (with tie-dye, marijuana, love beads, and lots of bad outfits). The basic plot explores The Doors' meteoric rise from playing small time gigs at clubs like the Whiskey " GoGo to packing arenas such as Madison Square Garden. While we view Morrison's on-stage antics (which are at times darkly humorous), we also see him slowly succumbing to fame, along with his girlfriend, Pamela Courson (Meg Ryan). Since the "perks" of stardom include constant access to drugs and alcohol, and any girl he wants at any time, these eventually lead to his burnout.

The acting is surprisingly good, mostly due to Kilmer's startling performance. He not only uncannily looks and sounds like Morrison, he has the singer's moves and stage style down extremely well. Kyle MacLachlan, Frank Whaley, and Kevin Dillon all contribute to the film as Ray Manzareck, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore, the three other Doors, but unfortunately Ryan is just what she claims to be: an ornament. Her character is definitely drawn and ditsy (her main job is to stand around Jim and gush about how he "moves" her); it's an insult for an actress of Ryan's caliber to play her.

So, what's the problem here? Well, for starters, Stone is directing a movie about one of the most over-hyped subjects in rock mush history. Morrison was just as pretentious as he was intriguing. Whether he was dancing around the stage in a drugged-out stupor or babbling incoherently about things that only had meaning in his mind, the fans always saw him as a mystical shaman leading his tribe. The sad thing is that Morrison was actually a depressed, deeply scarred young man. He disliked his rabid, teenage admirers, yet at the same time craved their attention constantly. His poetry was average at its best, long psychedelic opuses that nobody, not even his band, could understand ("All the children are insane/Wait for the summer rain"). Their first album, "The Doors" (which incidentally featured "Light My Fire," perhaps the group's greatest song, written by guitarist Krieger, not Morrison), captured his voice at its most rich and smooth. By the last album, Morrison could barely form syllables, let alone carry a tune.

It is all of this that Stone tries to pack into two and a half hours, and in the end, the viewer is exhausted. The director tries too hard to paint Morrison as a misunderstood genius and ends up creating the portrait of a constantly wasted near-psychopath. While drug use/hallucinations/sex scenes are shown constantly, we never get any real insight on why Morrison was ... to put it plainly ... so weird.

Let's face it, "The Doors" were a good rock 'n' roll band with an occasionally entertaining, if self-destructive lead singer. Morrison's demi-god status eventually killed him, and as the camera goes through the French graveyard where he is buried along with famous poets, during the final scenes, the viewer sees how silly and overblown Morrison's life was. I recommend "The Doors" for the good performances and fantastic concert footage, but faint of heart stay away: sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll never looked any worse than this. n

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