Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1991: Val Kilmer in The Doors

Val Kilmer did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jim Morrison in The Doors.

The Doors depicts the rise and fall of Jim Morrison the lead singer of the rock band the Doors. As film The Doors is a most unpleasant experience as the decay of Morrison is long and drawn out and rather repetitive after awhile. Morrison's story probably would have to be this way, but it probably did not have to be for over 2 hours or with as much over the top symbolism and style that Oliver Stone utilizes here.

Although I would not recommend the film to anyone who wishes to watch a pleasant or even a particularly compelling film Val Kilmer's portrayal of Jim Morrison is far and away the best part of the film. We follow Morrison from his early childhood to his beginnings as a musician through his stardom and through his slow, and I mean slow, fall into drinks, drugs and other vices. Kilmer does honestly meet the challenges of the part through the whole affair. Kilmer takes a difficult route with his portrayal in that he starts out Morrison as a bit of a flighty sort who always seems in at least a bit of a daze even when he is not on drugs. This is certainly a more challenging approach for Kilmer to take as he has to show the differences in Morrison's behavior in much smaller strokes than if he had him fall into the dazed quality.

Kilmer makes Morrison a very distinct sort. He talks slowly, he responds in his own way to everything that goes on around him. Kilmer manages to get down the rather strange type that Morrison, and Kilmer does it with such ease. This is not a case where Kilmer seems to be imitating the Morrison style by any means instead he just becomes Morrison from his first scenes as him and never looks back. He never seems to be play acting as Morrison or sort of getting down the style. Kilmer absolutely seizes the role in a way that he does just possess the idea of Morrison as a person in such an effortlessly fashion that the fact that Kilmer is lead can instantly be forgotten because of just how good in he is. It feels like you simply are watching Morrison not Kilmer playing him.

Kilmer is excellent in the role in finding the differences in the daze and his performance. Early in the film Kilmer makes Morrison very much of his own style but before the downfall there is a sensibility about him that shows that Morrison is far more in control of himself in these early scenes. In the scenes near the beginning where he and the band first get together we see the brilliance of the man of the musician. Although Kilmer still very much keeps Morrison's style and there is an energy even in his slow manner of speaking and acting. Although it is especially low key there is something quite passionate about his performance, and he realizes the discovery in his music alive, which leads to the musical performances in the film.

Kilmer is terrific in the musical performances because he succeeds in being the almost strangely laid back performer, but also quite confrontational sort at the same time. In that all Kilmer also makes Morrison charismatic performer even if his charisma is something especially peculiar Kilmer realizes it without fault. It is testament to how much Kilmer nailed the role that the film freely uses his own vocals in the film and Morrison's original and there isn't any sort of disconnection. He makes Morrison the unique rock star he should be even though this is sort of short lived in the film as Morrison quickly decays. Kilmer is great as he slowly shows the loss of Morrison's stage presence to the point that he seems exactly like what he is a drunk drug addict being drunk and drugged up.

The last, well it is hard to say the last when it is about three fourths of the film depicts Morrison's own personal self destruction with sex, drugs, alcohol, and in general self destruction. Although the scenes are repetitive in tone, and style Kilmer is quite strong in meeting the requirements of the role. What is important about it is just the insanity of it all that Kilmer gets across, and he himself does not remain at just one level throughout these scenes even if the film basically. He is terrific in realizing the completely ludicrousness of the state Morrison gets to. He never comes out of it fully there will be moments fully, sometimes he will seems kind of there but even than Kilmer still shows that the damage pretty much is done, and Morrison will never recover.

Honestly all of the drug addled stuff would be an easy time for some big overacting, but even as he gets more and more out of it Kilmer always stays believable through all the different phases whether he is down as far as he goes, up in some sort of deranged high or somewhere in between he always keeps all as merely part of Morrison's fall. Kilmer makes it a particularly difficult ride to go through as he really does show that he only falls further and further, and although he seems to be enjoying himself some of that time Kilmer makes even that enjoyment a little stomach churning. One of the most effective facets is how Kilmer expresses that the charisma and intelligence of the man starts to become completely lost as he slowly turns into a twisted deposit of different highs than a man anymore.

This is a superb piece of work by Val Kilmer. Although I would say it is not always used as well as it could as Kilmer plays it straight as Morrison as a self destructive junkie, but Oliver Stone tries far to hard, and fails, to try to get some sort of understanding out of the man through his use of the naked Indian that comes off as more silly than anything else. I would not take anything away from Kilmer's performance though since it is purely Stone's fault for overplaying his hand as director. Kilmer should get all the praise for really the entire film as his performance rises well above some of the material he is given. Playing a well known person is a difficult task and many actors either try to hard or not hard enough to bring the well known person to life on screen. Val Kilmer only succeeds in giving a stunning performance that absolutely succeeds in bringing to life Jim Morrison in a fully convincing fashion.


Anonymous said...

When Kilmer is one, which sadly isn't often, hes capable of being as good as any actor, especially in this and Tombstone.

Anonymous said...

This is such a brilliant performance. I miss the days when Kilmer tried harder and produced better work.

Anonymous said...

He was apparently really difficult to work with. His Doc Holliday was masterful, I cant believe he didn't get nominated for it.

mrripley said...

What did u think of quinlan.

Louis Morgan said...

She gave an interesting and pretty effective performance that I was rather surprised by considering the roles she usually plays.

nick wingerter said...

What did you think of him as Batman

Louis Morgan said...

He was much better than George Clooney, and considering all the overacting in his picture one can give him some credit for not doing so himself. I can't say he is great or anything close to it, but he really could have been much worse especially with some of the lines he was given "Chicks dig the car".

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

He certainly gets a bad rap for that one. His interpretation of the character was obviously not what ol' Joel or Warner Bros. had in mind.

Anonymous said...

I always thought he was cute but then heard he is a hard one to work with, which makes him unattractive. Favorite character was Doc Holliday by far. He was brilliant "I'll be your Huckleberry"... but he was a sexy Batman and Jim Morrison.