Coppola’s Detroit auto drama ‘Tucker: The Man and His Dream’ is a wild ride | Movies | Detroit

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Courtesy of DIA

Tucker: The Man and His Dream looks at the story of an underdog in Detroit’s auto industry.

Sneaky, big-hearted Tucker: The Man and His Dream brings a self-reflective but inviting style to what could have been a dry biopic of Did You Know: The One Who Gets a revival screening at the Detroit Film Theater this weekend. A longtime passion project for Francis Ford Coppola (originally intended to be a hybrid musical, it still tinkles pleasantly), Tucker is based on Jeff Bridges’ incarnation of Preston Tucker, a fearless outsider bent on overthrowing the Detroit automakers’ long-held stranglehold on the industry by launching his own brand. While the film’s sometimes rote screenplay and its dynamic, emotionally expressive formal features sometimes seem to rub against each other, the latter nevertheless allow it to succeed, resulting in a work with an inimitable style.

Set in the 1950s after Tucker designed vehicles and munitions for the American war effort, Coppola’s direction casts the man as stubbornly and a bit naively ambitious: something Bridges plays up to by imbuing him with its almost caricatural charms. It’s no big surprise for Coppola linked to Ypsilanti’s husband and father of four, an enterprising man with an appetite for risk and a pleasant sense of entitlement regarding the backing of wealthy financiers. I won’t be the first to note the parallels with the director’s own life and his films one of the heart and Revelation now – films that saw Coppola dig serious financial holes for himself, driven by a wild stew of ego, integrity and creative ambition, keeping his fingers crossed that all goes well in the end.

Here the stakes and budget are lower than Coppola’s early banner productions, looking looser and more playful. The cast – which includes Frederic Forrest (also from A and apocalypse) as key automotive designer, Joan Allen as Tucker’s sharp but practical wife, and Dean Stockwell in an indelible cameo role – all seem eager to race with what they’ve got, eschewing realism for vivid effect but increased most of them seem to share. (Sometimes it reminded me of the Wachowski sisters live action speed racer). Realism has little to do here with Coppola’s goals, nor does aesthetic fidelity to the cinematic period in which Tuckeris defined. Benefiting from the guiding hand of the inimitable cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (perhaps more particularly from the 1970s The conformista key influence on Coppola The Godfather), TuckerThe team deploys a handbag of historic filmmaking techniques. Vivid blue day-to-night scenes radiate through dining rooms adorned with stunning wallpaper; many high-stakes phone calls aren’t shot in split-screen, but with dazzling, realistic split-diopter techniques. These technical flourishes and more lead not to distraction but to elation, enlivening the film with a sense of creative ambition that seems to flow from its lead.

While the technical aspects of the film seem fresh enough, the story beats prove it less so. Although the bones of the script-level project are made defamiliarized by stylistic expression (or adornment), the parts in which these skeletons make themselves visible provide Tucker with its most entertaining aspect. Seemingly flippant dialogue scenes designed to signal essential flashes of innovation (Eureka moments, say) feel received from the textbooks in their conceptualization, especially since such examples in biopics are always a tested Hollywood watch. But the problem is less the artificiality of the writing – given the exacerbated register of the whole company – than the lack of invention. The very thing that gives so much Tucker its refreshing sense of vigor and zest is tellingly absent in these moments in a negative and expressionless sense. At times like these, the gears that move the film’s narrative can be seen, and they seem unremarkable when seen. It’s almost enough to make you guess the sense of verve that feels so present – and almost dazzling – throughout the rest of the film.

But Hollywood movies are made up of their scripts, performances, and visual styles all at once, and the loudest-sounding harmonies in all of them are bound to change from moment to moment. For most of Tucker, the pieces of his style that come together most forcefully seem more than able to compensate for his screenplay’s adherence to convention. (One could even argue that the simple normalcy of the script allows for the film’s flexible style by easing the pressure to provide visual and editorial forms of continuity.) For Coppola, there seems to be – as in his overly neglected one of the heart – a serious but comparatively brighter sense of hope guiding things here. When Tucker launches his car – complete with swinging headlights, novel safety features, and even its color scheme and silhouette – Coppola and company look genuinely mystified, adopting the film’s setting even though they’re the ones putting it all on. . The feel proves to be uplifting, making me happy to partake in what they have as a viewer – even despite the film’s few flaws.

If there’s anything dishonest about the film’s sense of believing that creative fulfillment is its own reward, I couldn’t find much evidence for it. On the contrary, Tucker seems to capture what it preaches thoroughly if not perfectly, allowing for a welcome sense of immersion in a fairly infectious mood.

Tucker: The Man and His Dream screens at DIA’s Detroit Film Theater at 7 p.m. Friday, September 16, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, September 17, and 4 p.m. Sunday, September 18; 5200 Woodward Avenue, Detroit; 313-833-7900; Tickets are $9.50 for general admission.

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