Val Kilmer Documentary Review: The Iceman Cometh

Val Kilmer Documentary Review: The Iceman Cometh
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Val Kilmer Documentary Review: The Iceman Cometh

Val Kilmer Documentary Review: The Iceman Cometh

Actor Val Kilmer is not just the subject of “Val,” a documentary directed by Ting Poo and Leo Scott. He also receives film credit, having shot numerous home movies and video diary entries which give the film its visual texture. More a self-portrait than a profile, “Val” tells the story of a Hollywood career with a candor that stops at revelation. The tone is personal but not entirely intimate, producing in the viewer a sense of warm and mildly suspicious camaraderie.

Dating Kilmer, now in his sixties, is an interesting and bittersweet experience. In on-camera interviews, he still exudes a movie star charisma, even though his voice isn’t what it used to be. Since being treated for throat cancer in 2014, he has been speaking through a tracheostomy tube and his words are spelled out in captions.

What he says in his own hoarse, electronically distorted voice is complemented by narration – read by his son, Jack – that reflects the ups and downs of a career that was never quite what it was. wanted her to be. Kilmer reflects on how acting crosses and blurs the line between reality and illusion, concluding that he has spent most of his life “inside the illusion.”

A Juilliard graduate with a keen sense of craftsmanship, he rose to Hollywood in the heyday of the 1980s. His best-known roles are probably still Iceman, the square-jawed heavyweight in “Top Gun” and Batman, whose costume he wore, not very comfortably, between Michael Keaton and George Clooney. When Kilmer visits Comic-Con, autograph seekers want him to sign memorabilia from those films. But to appreciate the full extent of his talent, it is better to spot “The Doors”, “Tombstone” and of course “Heat”, in which he credibly holds his own alongside Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. .

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In broad outline, “Val” is a standard biographical documentary, retracing an arc from childhood through struggle, triumph, and more wrestling. We see Kilmer with his parents and brothers, hear about his marriage to British actress Joanne Whalley, and see shenanigans on set and behind the scenes with Sean Penn, Tom Cruise and Marlon Brando.

Conflicts with directors and castmates, and Kilmer’s tabloid-fueled reputation for “difficulty” are mentioned in passing, but “Val” is neither a first-person confessional nor a journalistic investigation. It seems to arise above all from the desire of a sometimes reluctant celebrity and often underestimated artist to be understood. With a mixture of wit, sincerity, self-awareness and narcissism that is both a requirement and a pitfall of his profession, Kilmer manages to explain himself, or at least convince us that we are not. has never really experienced it before.

Rated R. Rough language. Duration: 1 hour 49 minutes. In theaters.

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