No one will ever accuse Oliver Stone of holding back. And "The Doors" has given him the perfect outlet for his flamboyant moviemaking style. This is a real case of excess meets excess.
And we're not talking rock biography in the joyful style of "La Bamba" or "The Buddy Holly Story" here. We're talking "The Rose," "Sid and Nancy" or any number of other downbeat, relentless wallowings in drugs, booze and sex.
On the plus side there are 25 Doors songs and, of course, Val Kilmer, who is quite remarkable at impersonating Jim Morrison, the lead singer of the '60s rock band in question. And make no mistake — despite the title, "The Doors" is about Jim Morrison, not the group.
None of the characters besides Morrison is developed beyond the stand-around-and-stare stage. Even Meg Ryan, as his soul-mate Pam, has little to do beyond hanging out and occasionally getting into a fight.
That, however, is nothing compared to the film's chaotic style, an obvious attempt at a two-hour, 15-minute metaphor for what co-writer/director Stone sees as the decade itself — sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. But it's hard not to think he has imposed at least some '90s sensibilities onto that vision.
Everything is exaggerated and pretentious — sometimes even ridiculous.
The film begins with Morrison reading rambling "poetry" (this movie is filled with meaningless babbling), then flashes back to his childhood when he sees an Indian hurt in a car accident. Throughout the rest of the movie Morrison envisions this Indian as a shaman who visits him whenever he's blasted. There are, as you might guess, frequent visits.
We see Morrison picking up Pam, going through a brief stint in UCLA film school, meeting Ray Manzarek (well-played by Kyle Mac-Lachlan) and forming the group. Their experimentation with drugs begins immediately, and it isn't long before Morrison's drunken antics begin disrupting their performances.
There is more drug use, wilder concerts and Morrison comes under the influence of a journalist who practices witchcraft (effectively played by Kathleen Quinlan in a real change-of-pace role). Morrison hangs from hotel ledges, picks fights with everyone who cares about him and, for all intents and purposes, eventually self-destructs.
Ultimately, he is buried in Paris, where he died at the age of 27, in a cemetery with the remains of Chopin, Proust and many other great artists. But whether he should be among that company is debatable.
"The Doors" is very slick and bound for box-office success, but as a film it is every bit as wildly out of control as its subject. Often it appears to be little more than a longform — long longform — music video, with no insight into either Morrison or the '60s.
Like Morrison himself, the film contains flashes of brilliance in between an awful lot of tedious self-indulgence. As such, it seems more the glorification of an alcoholic jerk than a cautionary tale.
"The Doors" is rated R for considerable violence, nudity, sex, profanity, vulgarity and drug use.