By Chad Young
Venice, Italy-Closing the Venice Film Festival is the John Delorean biopic “Driven” starring Lee Pace as DeLorean and Jason Sudeikis as Jim Hoffman, an FBI informant that is the undoing of John DeLorean’s career. Throughout the movie, you get the feeling that Delorean himself is his own undoing through his narcissistic and flamboyant demeanor that catapulted him to his meteoric rise through GM in the 60’s and 70’s, but this tale written by Colin Bateman only shows the view from Jim Hoffman, drug dealer turned informant, who somehow lures Delorean into a drug deal.
Lee Pace’s performance as John DeLorean is superb, as a self-assured, automotive genius that enjoys the high life and partying with celebrities. Pace certainly became the character he was portraying. But, Jason Sudeikis’ is really the star of the film as the FBI informant, as the entire story is told from his perspective. His performance as the drug dealer, turned informant, turned DeLorean friend, uses a lot of dramatic license, as the actual person entered witness protection many years ago. Sudeikis’ wit and quick thinking comes through in his performance which no doubt had the screenplay writers on their toes. Although not truly a straight dramatic role for Sudeikis, he pulls off his tongue-in-cheek performance quite convincingly. The disappointing part is the absence of DeLorean’s accomplishments through his career. In the movie, the characters briefly mention that DeLorean is the creator of the Pontiac GTO, but his claims to fame extend far beyond that. DeLorean was the youngest chief of any GM division, in this case Pontiac, in 1965, at the age of 40. While working at Pontiac, he developed a new model by taking a mid-sized Pontiac Tempest and installing a 389 cu in (6.4 L) V8. The Pontiac GTO was born and it was this young vision that many believe set him on course to create the beginning of the muscle car craze. He also developed the Pontiac Firebird. DeLorean moved on to head Chevrolet in 1969 and then abruptly quit in 1973.
The movie “Driven” directed by Nick Hamm picks up long after John DeLorean has left Chevrolet and is attempting to start his own car company. In reality, this vision to reality story took much longer, as he was met with resistance on factory space, engine suppliers, etc. He eventually ended up employing 2,000 people in Northern Ireland to build the car, and Renault was supplying the engines. Taking until 1981 to deliver his first car, DeLorean’s company was in financial trouble. In the end, although still a wealthy man, John DeLorean faced financial difficulties with his company and was lured into a scheme by Jim Hoffman to traffic cocaine for a quick profit, to save the faltering company. Although, most car aficionados will remember seeing the grainy black and white video shown on major news channels at the time, from the FBI sting operation, I doubt most of the actors in the film are old enough to remember. It was certainly a fall from grace as then John DeLorean was arrested, tried in federal court, and although acquitted, his car company went into bankruptcy and he would never be relevant in the car industry again.
On a side note for car fans, I found some of the attention to detail in a car movie about a car guy that was also disappointing. Although, the characters hair and wild outfits were true to the late 70’s and early 80’s times, I noticed several cars in the film with 3rd brake lights, which became mandatory in the US in 1986. Since the majority of the film occurred in the years leading up to 1982, I found it lazy that they used a bunch of cars from the late 80’s instead of period correct cars, which should have been easy to find. Although a small detail to most, it’s this attention to detail that makes me wonder if maybe they have been loose on other “facts” about the story as well.
In the end, it was very exciting to be at the Venice Film Festival and see a movie premiere and watch the actors walk the red carpet. Rhonda even met the gentleman that is the Director of the Venice Film Festival, Alberto Barbera, a virtual rock star in local circles. We also were outside on the red carpet when Alfonso Cuaron, director of the film “Roma” emerged carrying his Golden Lion award for Best Picture from the competition. Although not the Oscars, this competition is the oldest film festival in the world, and although a little hard to get to as we had to take two boats to reach the island where it is held, the people could not have been more congenial. We bought “public” tickets to the premiere the day before the premiere, and sat in the theater as the actors and directors from the film sat behind us as we watched their film. It was a very exciting atmosphere, with people from all over the world coming together for the love of film.