59. The Doors

Oliver Stone directs this look into the legendary band The Doors and its enigmatic frontman Jim Morrison, immaculately portrayed by Val Kilmer.  The film follows Morrison from his days as a UCLA film school dropout where he meets keyboardist Ray Manzarek (Kyle MacLachlan) and decides to form a band.  As they recruit drummer John Densmore (played by Johnny Drama, err… I mean Kevin Dillon) on drums and Robby Krieger (Frank Whaley) on guitar, the band instantly begins playing on the Sunset strip and gaining a reputation for wild and unhinged live shows.  As Morrison does every drug on the table and screws whoever he wants, he still manages to maintain a relationship with his longtime girlfriend Pamela (Meg Ryan).

As the band’s popularity explodes with their ubiquitous hits “Light My Fire” and “Break on Through”, Morrison is increasingly delusional and destructive.  The notorious incidents in New Haven, CT where Morrison causes a riot and Miami, FL where Morrison may have exposed himself are depicted as circus-like disasters in full Oliver Stone flair.  While the band teeters on the edge of implosion, it becomes evident that there is no possible way for Morrison to continue his lifestyle and he eventually passes away from reported heart failure in a Paris bathtub at the age of 27.

I have never been a huge fan of this band, but I found the film to be incredibly interesting as it studies 60′s culture and The Doors’ rise to international stardom.  Val Kilmer vehemently steals the show in what will probably go down as the role of his lifetime.  I have never been a huge Kilmer fan, but he is indeed hypnotic throughout the film with his raw energy resonating through every scene.  As Morrison grows from a starry eyed Bohemian  to an absolute monster ruled by ego and vice, Kilmer is resolutely masterful from beginning to end.  To top it all off, Kilmer performs all of his own vocals backed by the original tracks from the band in a convincing and natural fashion.

Like any other Oliver Stone film, you are getting *his* vision of the subject matter – for better or worse.  While this film might be titled The Doors, it could very well be titled Jim Morrison as the other band members are understandably ignored.  As far as feature films following the life of an iconic band, The Doors is rightly among the best.

For a little further info on the production of the film, check out my interview with filming location manager Barry Gremillion.

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Categories: 100 Films

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