By Natasha Samreny
When I’m rich and famous, maybe someone will produce a good-looking movie about me and call it a documentary. Legendary, that’s what they’ll call me. Then I’ll be sure to secure a mythical place up there with all those other things we call legendary: dragons, Santa, the Abominable Snowman … and Jerry Weintraub.
Outside of Hollywood, business, and the entertainment world, Weintraub is one of those names you may have heard before but don’t always remember why. He took Elvis on tour and managed Frank Sinatra’s comeback from retirement. Karate Kid, Nashville, all those Oceans movies remakes. Oh, and he cheated on his wife and managed to turn it into a happy-ending story that sold great on camera – now that’s salesmanship.
George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts—from the beginning, His Way entertains like a movie and reads like a promo for the I’ll Have What He’s Having lifestyle. From glowing celebrity interviews to beauty shot sequences of monogrammed millionaire clothes, towels and shoes, the film does an impressive job of selling lifestyle through rich, colorful camera work and Weintraub’s charismatic storytelling.
We learn how the event promoter, agent and film producer built his entertainment business empire and list of A-list clientele and colleagues from the bottom up. When he was still green, Weintraub says he called Elvis’s manager Colonel Tom Parker every day for a year asking to take the King back on tour. Parker finally relented, but the young entrepreneur had to come up with a million dollars in a day to secure the deal. The persistent salesman always seems to find a way through a mix of networking, bending the truth and not backing down.
Main reason it gets a 3? The film entertains like a movie but less like the documentary it’s marketed as. HBO’s in the business of entertaining, and His Way is entertaining. But HBO and Weintraub are also in the business of selling, and here film producers Alan and Gabe Polsky and director Douglas McGrath (Infamous, and Nicholas Nickleby) guide the effort to sell the film’s golden boy as a legend in his own time.
The interview clips are interesting, cleanly produced and perfectly spliced together. We meet colleagues, friends and family including wife, girlfriend, children and brother. But regardless of production titles, it’s not a stretch to imagine the producer with his hand heavily affecting the steering.
Legend in your own time? Legends are things of myths—improbable, even unbelievable stories made of truth and untruth. They’re talked about because of the awe they muster up, lessons they teach or entertainment they provide in story form. There’s definitely a lot to learn from the professional risks he’s taken, impressive contracts he’s gotten and financial leaps and losses he’s made throughout his extensive career. He and his friends deliver some funny stories in this documentary, but it comes off as biased and self-serving.
The DVD has no special features. If you really like the guy, or want a study on how to turn your life story into an engaging movie, then consider the DVD. Otherwise, maybe you should wait until it comes out in 3-D.