BECOMING ICONIC: JONATHAN BAKER (2021, doc)


Greetings again from the darkness. Certainly I’ve never thought “Dude, just shut up!” more frequently during a movie than while watching this documentary from Neal Thibedeau. That recurring thought had nothing to do with anyone else in the theater (I was watching alone at home), but instead was aimed at the subject of the film, Jonathan Baker. His interminable narcissistic chatter, especially during the first 20 minutes, not only highlights the level of ego we are dealing with, but also tests the patience of any and every viewer.

The premise of the project has definite merit: A first time feature film director documents his process and the industry challenges faced, while also sharing the insider tips and advice he garnered from some of the top names in the profession. Directors appearing on camera and recalling their first films include: Oscar winner Taylor Hackford (RAY, 2004; AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, 1982), Oscar winner Jodie Foster (LITTLE MAN TATE, 1991), John Badham (SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, 1977; THE BINGO LONG ALL-STARS & TRAVELING MOTOR KINGS, 1973), and Adrian Lyne (FATAL ATTRACTION, 1987; FLASHDANCE, 1983). The segments with these successful directors are enlightening as these professionals are particularly forthcoming in their honest assessment of their own first efforts and the industry in which they work.

The second half of the film focuses more on Baker’s struggles to get his first film made. INCONCEIVABLE (2017) starring Oscar winner Nicolas Cage, Oscar winner Faye Dunaway, and Gina Gershon provides Baker with all the obstacles he was told to expect, plus a few more. The Hollywood money machine isn’t fond of turning millions over to a first time director; while actors, costumes, sets, locations, and kids all bring hiccups that require managing, manipulation, and negotiation.

Interviews with these directors and a behind-the-scenes look at the hurdles in getting a film made create some terrific moments that we wouldn’t ordinarily be privy to. However, almost every sequence is tainted by Jonathan Baker puffing up about his “vision” (which we never learn) and the ‘fact’ that he was born to be a director, and what he really wants is to be rich and famous … to reach the “iconic” status of the title and of those kind enough to offer him the benefit of their own struggles. Instead, Baker seems to thrive on dropping Warren Beatty’s name countless times … both as his “mentor” and the seller of the house that Baker bought. Of course, this mentor only ‘appears’ in Baker’s ramblings, and never actually on camera. The film certainly would have benefitted from another pass at editing to remove some of the duplication, as well as some of Baker’s personal ramblings. There is enough here for any wannabe director, and the patience required can only help.

Being released on Digital and VOD on May 21, 2021

WATCH THE TRAILER

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