Oliver Stone takes the drug fueled, poetic heart, and rambling mind of Jim Morrison and brings him to life in his music biopic simply entitled The Doors (1991). It is certainly slow, long, and meandering, but The Doors also captures Jim Morrison’s earnest poetry, his electric presence, captivating frontman persona, passionate moody singer, and crazed recklessness. I love The Doors for their creative spark, impressive technical prowess, poetic lyrics, sincere groundbreaking, and complete originality. The film absolutely holds you in its magnetic grip, gazing into the dilated eyes of a strung out Morrison as he gazes back at you deep into your soul. Stone’s writing implies that Morrison was hurting constantly, hating life, and desiring death, but I think there was also a brilliant artist. Morrison wrote amateur poetry as he clearly wanted so desperately to be a real poet, but his real eternal poetry lies in his visceral lyrics.
The music of The Doors will last forever as a testament to a time of drug indulgence, erratic behavior, free love, and inspiring creativity. The film The Doors manages to construct a fairly believable persona of what Jim Morrison was like as a person thanks to Val Kilmer’s uncanny resemblance, real singing, and hypnotic gravitas. Kilmer transforms himself into a magician of musical bliss, intrigue, mystique, and aimless nihilism. If Morrison really wanted to die, he certainly lived his life with no restraints. He was a man shouting into the ether of the universe begging for attention, validation, and comfort. I wonder if he found any peace ever?
Oliver Stone’s direction recreates America during 1965 through 1971 with a careful eye. The outfits, buildings, music, celebrities, attitudes, drugs, parties, concerts, and speech all feel genuine to the era. You are riveted by the story of The Doors and held in suspense waiting for Jim Morrison to die. I just wish that there were more attention given to the fascinating band members of The Doors, instead of solely focusing on the legendary frontman Jim Morrison.
Stone’s editing choices obviously were intentional to simulate a peyote or an acid trip, which makes The Doors a transcendent film, and an annoying one at times. Just when you understand how broken and destructive Morrison was, you get little of The Doors’ career as a group. The major concerts and infamous incidents are covered, but not more intimate moments between the band. I wanted more of the latter and less of the former for a more coherent story. The drug induced atmosphere is intense and an experience all its own, but Oliver Stone went overboard in his dedication to harnessing The Doors’ psychedelic magic power.
In addition to Val Kilmer’s iconic performance as Jim Morrison, The Doors contains several sublime supporting roles. Meg Ryan captures the flower child, drug addict, free lover Pamela Courson with a mesmerizing presence all her own. Kyle MacLachlan depicts legendary organist Ray Manzarek with an earnest sympathy for his struggle of coping with his friend Morrison unravelling as well as fame and family. Manzarek was the steadfast leader of The Doors as a band and a voice of conscience clearly desperate to save his friend. MacLachlan was inspired casting, much like Kilmer as Morrison.
Furthermore, Frank Whaley is perfect as unique lead guitarist Robby Krieger. His sweet hippie friend to Morrison is touching as he simply desired to make music with his friends. Whaley’s portrayal of Robby Krieger really captures his dour guitar playing and bursts of energy in his dreamy guitar playing. Whaley involves you to demonstrate what a genius Robby Krieger was at his instrument. Krieger captured a blend of blues and Spanish guitar styles alongside Ray Manzarek’s classical organ, John Densmore’s jazz drumming, and Jim Morrison poetic lyrics with his melancholic blues rock singing for a genuinely original sound for The Doors. Kevin Dillon is fierce as Densmore and brings an energy to his portrayal and drumming.
Otherwise, Michael Wincott’s gravelly voice as Paul Rothchild is distinct and even reaches sincere heights as he begs Morrison not to overdose like Janis Joplin. It’s too bad Morrison never listened to Rothschild, Manzarek, Krieger, or Densmore or he might have had a longer life. Michael Madsen plays a drunken actor pal of Morrison’s bent on aiding Morrison’s quest of self-destruction. Kathleen Quinlan is hypnotizing as the alluring Patricia Kennealy, who Jim Morrison had an affair with much to the dismay of Meg Ryan’s increasingly delirious Pam. The Doors just keeps delivers cool cameos left and right from Kelly Hu as Dorothy to Wes Studi as an Indian in the desert. Even Crispin Glover appears as a wide eyed Andy Warhol.
In all, Oliver Stone’s The Doors is not immaculate in its execution or editing, it is ambitious and earnest in its depiction of The Doors. I wish the rest of the band had more screen time, but Val Kilmer is such an all encompassing actor here that you might not even notice. The Doors is a classic biopic despite its flaws.