Sunday, June 16, 2013

Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie

There are a lot of big laughs – more at him than with him – in Seth Kramer’s and Daniel A. Miller’s biodoc “√Čvocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie.” What’s amazing about Downey’s story is how compressed it was, how quickly he went from local TV personality at WOR in Secaucus to talk of the nation to abject, can’t-get-arrested failure. (The whole process took about two years from ’87 to ’89.) You’re reminded why in cringe-inducing footage from the show, from Downey’s hilarious appearance on the “Hot Seat” show of kindred spirit Wally George, from an abortive tour of college campuses at which Downey quickly learned nobody wanted to hear him and his best bud sing folk songs (the directors have put together several witty animations, including of his father – the famous opera singer – shaking his head disapprovingly). Even in the briefest and most ephemeral of boom times – when Downey could see only endless fame and wealth ahead, and bought his decades-younger girlfriend a house full of gaudy kitsch she didn’t want – you could see the hollowness and pain in Downey’s face. This tightly paced and well-reported film, full of insights from the few insiders in Downey’s life, feels like it captures the essence of the man and honors him with its humor.

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