Rated R mainly for some pretty mild stuff. There's a lot of language because there are candid conversations with many different personality types. There's a lot of butts, you know, celebrity butts. I suppose if you are uncomfortable with tragedy, the movie can get pretty bleak at times. That shouldn't really affect the MPA rating that it gets, but I suppose it does. Regardless, this movie gets an R rating.
DIRECTORS: Ting Poo and Leo Scott
I just opened a Pandora's Box of work. I actually asked permission to get started on a massive amount of work early because the pile just kept on growing. But before I start --and I swear that I'm not procrastinating --I'm going to write the blog for my most recent watch. I know that I'll put this on the backburner if I don't do it now and it is really fresh in my mind. I just watched two documentaries back-to-back, so I'm probably going to be bleeding into the nature of reality with both of these blog entries. But that's kind of what is staring us in the face when we watch a documentary. There's always something tickling us in the back of our noggins, telling us to be skeptical or to marvel at the impossible. With Val, there's the feeling --at least for me --of never really understanding someone.
I will start with the notion that I probably wouldn't get along with Val Kilmer. We have drastically different personalities, even if we have similar belief systems when it comes to art. I never really thought of Val Kilmer as an artist, but that's really on me. I may have started questioning his motivations once his one-man show about Mark Twain started garnering headlines. But to me, he was always Batman. I know that I'm not alone. The movie straight up stresses this concept. Many people know Val Kilmer from one or all of three roles: Iceman from Top Gun, Doc Holiday from Tombstone, and the titular character from Batman Forever. But this is a story of a struggling artist. It isn't because of his financial troubles. I mean, he surprisingly has a lot of financial problems, but that's not the focus of his frustration. The message, without Kilmer's direct attack on Hollywood ever clearly stated, is a world where true art isn't really respected. This is a guy who went to Julliard. He was in the shadow of a dead brother who epitomized fun art. But every role that he ever took in film seemed to be an attempt to find something deeper that rarely ended up being there.
The entire purpose of this blog is to find the meaning in every film I watch. Sometimes it is easier than other times. Sometimes, I have to graft it on myself. It's kind of the nature of the beast. There are some real artists out there making some really challenging stuff. But Kilmer is almost a cautionary tale of the secret of celebrity. Kilmer is almost A-level celebrity. While he probably never hit the same levels as peers George Clooney or Tom Cruise, he was a household name. He was the big time. He got all of these roles because he invested in them. It came out of what he learned at Julliard. He would be the guy who found himself frustrated with roles because there was something that he had to explore. (I say that as a negative, but it really is a positive. The best roles I ever had as a theatre major were the ones that took me forever to really understand.) With the exception of his portrayal of Jim Morrison, he would regularly be asked to scale his intensity with characters back to a place that would be more entertaining, but ultimately more false. Considering that I associate him with Batman and probably always will, it was heartbreaking to hear how vapid the entire Batman Forever experience ended up being.
Kilmer stresses that his is a life incomplete. I suppose that everyone feels that to a certain extent. I'm going to die with a book unpublished and regrets about spending so much time blogging. If I quit blogging, I would regret not blogging because it all seemed do-able. Kilmer, in his unique perspective, is forced to confront this element of himself because of his battle with throat cancer. While the cancer is now in remission, his voice is missing. It's odd to think that he has lost everything because he can't speak. He still is Val Kilmer. That's something that I kept having to actively think about. When I see him dressed up in a tuxedo as Bruce Wayne, he's still this same man who is speaking through a hole in his throat and wearing a Golden State Warriors cap. It's not a situation of "How the Mighty Have Fallen", but rather an understanding that aging may not be a gradual process, but a smash cut into self-examination. Val Kilmer is someone who could taste his own life so recently that his documentary into the power of his youth was only a few years ago. He was a powerhouse...and then he wasn't.
Considering that the documentary is written as a celebration, there's something so sad about the movie. I applaud the beauty that comes out of his son, Jack Kilmer, acting as a surrogate for Kilmer's voice. Jack has Val's cadence and voice down. Part of that is biology, but I have to imagine it also comes with an intimacy of knowing his father so well. While watching these sequences where Jack refers to himself as "Val" [I], it's almost haunting to hear a man speak about himself with a voice that is missing, yet one that sounds remarkably like him. It's perhaps the secret thread that is running through the movie that is the most relatable and joyful. But the rest of the film, despite the fact that it acts as an autobiography, is a condemnation of the past. Kilmer has an almost disdain for his career. He talks positively about elements of all of his early films, but stresses that he felt empty with these roles that denied him artistic satisfaction. But even more so, he goes through this thing that is heartbreaking for me: he doesn't want to be these people anymore.
I go to conventions. I really like them. I love meeting the actors of pop culture and getting my two seconds of lavishing praise. Some people are great about it. Paul McGann and David Tennant take the cake so far, but I do love the idea of just meeting people. There is a one-sided relationship there. I know a lot about this actor because of my investment in their work. But these people know nothing about me. I'm not their friend, nor will I ever be their friend. From their perspective, I have more of a relationship with their characters. When Val Kilmer shows up to an outdoor screening of Tombstone, he weeps as he leaves. He doesn't want to be someone who used to be something. He wants to create and make more things. While Kilmer stresses that he's never upset at fans who see him as Iceman or Batman, he doesn't like looking backwards. I feel that. But it also puts me in a place. Because as much as he says that he loves his fans, there's that edge there. I know that it isn't the whole story. If the fans weren't there to remind him of the past, he could continue looking forwards.
The ironic part of this is that I have a deeper relationship with Val Kilmer because of this movie. Before, he was always an actor for me. He made one movie that absolutely crushed me and that was Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a movie that only gets a nod here and there in the documentary. But now I see him as a paradoxical soul. He is someone who tries living life to his fullest and yet feels utterly crushed by the shadow that he has cast. He always seems jovial, except when he's not. But I'm now left with a larger gap between what he knows about me and I know about him. I want to comfort him, despite the fact that I know that we wouldn't be copasetic. My empathy has left me in a place of emptiness. I feel for him and want to chat with him so he could find solace in his complexity, but that is not my place, nor do I want it to be my place. Instead, I have to find joy in the fact that he has family around him. I mean, his survival is a miracle.
But that leaves me with the knowledge that we have to treat the whole person. This is someone who is coping extremely well with unfathomable trauma. He is suffering, but making art to deal with that suffering. So I'm left praying for him. I'm sure he'd appreciate it.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.