With Straight Out Of Compton winning its 2nd week at box office, it raised some questions I have about biopics. First off, I won’t give a full review since it’s been out for a while now. I’ll say it was incredibly well acted and if you haven’t seen it to just go out and see it already, I’m disappointed it took me this long to see it. But anyways, this movie had a problem that many people have thought up before. Because this movie is produced by both Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, two of the people being depicted, there were some things left out or changed that really shouldn’t have been. The biggest one brought up for this was that Dre’s story completely glossed over his domestic abuse. Dre has been accused of abuse by several different woman and he’s even apologised for it recently. So this makes me ask how much should we show in a biopic? Good or bad?
So first off, let’s talk about factors that can cause an unfair view on certain people’s life. For Straight Outta Compton, it’s easy. Dre and Cube produced this movie so they had them gloss over certain parts of their life. In fact, the two of them were shown in such a good light that one scene in particular were Cube goes off was really a shock to me. He may have been justified (slightly) for what he did but it still didn’t paint him in the best light. So there’s the possibility that the actual person has too much say in what makes it. But can that be flipped around?
Well let’s look at The Social Network. The Mark Zuckerburg movie directed but David Fincher and starring Jesse Eisenberg. This movie had no input by the real like Zuckerberg so he was painted in a bad light. In fact, Fincher told the actors they were not allowed to talk to their real life counterparts because it would affect how they play the character. The last one which might be the biggest is the performance might change based on how the actor perceives who they are playing. Again with The Social Network, Eisenberg pretty much created the character of Zuckerberg in his head and played off how he thinks he might act. But sometimes actors think to much of the people they portray.
Let’s take for example, Steve Jobs. Ashton Kutcher, who played Steve Jobs in Jobs, has admitted to basically being a Steve Jobs fan boy. He loved everything he did and really looked up to him. Which that’s not bad but it can be when that crosses over into your performance. Because of this he made Steve Jobs to be out more than what he was. He saw him as this amazing visionary who could do no wrong. So we have a Steve Jobs who seems to be level-headed, only flies off he chain when absolutely necessary, and always knows how things are to be done. Even Jobs’ ex partner Wozniak says that Kutcher’s portrayal of Jobs was skewed based on how he perceived Jobs.
So how do we fix this, or should we fix it? Let’s answer the latter one first because that seems the more important one. Should we fix biopics? Should we allow them to only show real people in one unfair way? This is a tough question since history is history and it can’t be changed. Once you’ve done something, it’s done and that is part of who you are. But at the same time it’s your life. If someone were to make a movie about you and include stuff you didn’t like would you allow them to? Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not it can still hurt you. Maybe you have overcome your past and don’t want to be reminded of it. It’s really a tough question and I don’t know the answer. But the one thing I will say is this should be a decision for the filmmaker not the person it’s based off of, or their family.
If we want to fix it then first thing is first, we need people to not produce their own biopics. Really I would argue we shouldn’t make biopics about people who are still alive because their story isn’t complete but that’s not happening any time soon. Seems more people are getting movies made about them and most of them are produced by said person. Second thing is if the person or people are still alive and not producing then we need to not let them get in the way. As I’ll bring up in my next point, it’s on to get their side of the story, ever story has two sides, and motivations but we can’t let them control what they say. This includes directors, writers and actors. They all need to know who they are working with. Last is most important, people need to do their homework. Biopics usually show people as wholly good or wholly evil, not much in between. This happens because it’s usually told from only one viewpoint. So want we need to do is get the whole story, get multiple viewpoints and make the movie balanced. Because The Social Network crew didn’t take time to get know the real Zuckerberg this created a skewed image of him. Although he’s based on a real person in this movie he’s more of a creation of Fincher and Eisenberg (by the way not knocking of the movie, I absolutely love it).
If we do all of that we have a chance of making movies balanced to show the human side of these people. People need to see their heroes brought down to a human level because so often we put them higher than that and that makes it seem impossible to accomplish what they did. But if we bring them down and show that they made mistakes just like us then it can actually inspire us to overcome our own problems and achieve greatness.