Val Kilmer documentary charts Hollywood rise and fall

September 18, 2022

Val Kilmer has made a fascinating and bittersweet return to the big screen during the Cannes festival of film in a documentary that charts his meteoric rise and decline in Hollywood through his personal home recordings.

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The documentary by Amazon “Val” is a tender portrayal of the actor, who is now 61, and whose life has been characterized by more highs and lows than the fighter planes in the film he made his name with “Top Gun”.

Most striking is Kilmer’s voice, turned into a near-incomprehensible rasp by treatment for throat cancer.

It’s not over yet his career as he is set to reprise his role as Iceman in the fall of this year’s eagerly-awaited sequel “Top Gun: Maverick”.

However, the documentary portrays him as an unrecognizable shadow of the person he was before, diminished to taking pictures at events his words, “selling his old self”.

The film is heavily based on Kilmer’s extensive library of home video recordings Kilmer had a camera on him throughout his entire life, providing intimate behind-the-scenes footage from his greatest hits, such as “Tombstone”, “The Doors” and “Batman Forever”.

– ‘Difficult’ reputation –

The Hollywood Reporter described the film as “agile and alive”, and praised the candor of the star: “How many certified movie stars would allow themselves to be filmed so physically altered, and on the inescapable downslope of an A-list career?”

There’s a thrilling fight between Director John Frankenheimer on the set of “The Island of Dr. Moreau” the film that was the beginning of his career’s downfall in the late 1990s. However, the film mostly focuses on the obsession with his apparently exasperating work routines.

“The filmmakers sometimes gloss over aspects of Kilmer’s legacy that would have been fascinating to interrogate, such as his reputation for being difficult with his directors,” said Screen Daily.

It also said that it was “a fragility to ‘Val’ — and not just in Kilmer’s physical presence — that’s unexpectedly moving.”

Kilmer was the youngest ever admitted into New York’s fabled Juilliard School. He wanted to create serious films but he ended up trapped in a series of schlocky blockbusters as well as expensive failures.

“Being difficult was the price he made everyone pay for trapping him in a system he found too little satisfaction in,” reported Variety.

After ten years or more of low-budget film productions, Kilmer was mounting a comeback in the year 2010 with a wildly successful stage production on Mark Twain that he hoped to make into a film and was then hit by cancer.

“Yet he now has the aura of a man who was dealt his cosmic comeuppance and came through it,” said Variety. “He fell from stardom, maybe from grace, but he did it his way.”


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