HBO’s “Phil Spector” (March 24) directed by David Mamet and starring a tantalizingly wigged-out Al Pacino and Helen Mirren, is mostly receiving praise from critics. Pacino’s performance is being touted as “compelling, both despite and because of the wigs,” while Mamet’s direction is called “sinfully entertaining.” But not every outlet is impressed: Variety describes the film as “essentially a Lifetime movie gussied up with an Oscar pedigree.” Review highlights below.
The film, which chronicles what might have happened on the night of actress Lana Clarkson’s murder, insists via an opening title card: “This is a work of fiction. It is not ‘based on a true story.'” Mamet told TheWrap:
“I think that someone in the legal hierarchy at HBO wanted
some sort of disclaimer, and I kind of thought that was a good idea… Every time
I see the phrase ‘based on a true story,’ as an audience member I kind of
blanch. I don’t care if it’s based on a true story, I care if it is a true
How do you even get past the spectacle of Al Pacino wearing
an assortment of Spector’s famous adornments and believe him as the famous
record producer charged with killing an actress at his mansion? As it turns out,
during the course of an intriguing and intimate 90 minutes, Pacino is
compelling both despite of and because of the wigs. So, mission accomplished.
“Al Pacino is Phil Spector” is a tough marketing pitch to
resist, but the teaming of the much-honored Pacino, Helen Mirren and
writer-director David Mamet can barely obscure that this crime-based story is
essentially a Lifetime movie gussied up with an Oscar pedigree and F-bombs.
In the end, the movie transcends the legal chess match,
defining itself instead by the sheer wattage of Spector’s personality and his
high-level sparring with a woman whose brains match his own, minus the madness.
It would be hard to overplay Spector, and Pacino doesn’t
try. He and Mamet also don’t spend a lot of time implicitly or explicitly
trying to figure what makes him tick.
David Mamet’s sinfully entertaining Phil Spector — a new HBO
movie, premiering Sunday, set during the legendary record producer’s first
trial for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson — plays a saucy variation on the
claims of a fact-based biopic.
Fictionalized or not, “Phil Spector” the movie is a helluva
tale — told by a master dramatist and starring HBO’s very own go-to actor for
oddball characters, Al Pacino. Pacino pulls off such a masterful performance, you will
think he’s really Spector’s specter — not some fool in clown wigs. What you may find disappointing, however, is that this is
not the story of the genius who changed popular music, nor the story of
Spector’s abusive relationships with his wives and his long history of
threatening them with guns.