Perfect way to tell a biopic

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aronisred's Avatar
outrageous film reviewer
With very few exceptions it seems like no matter how loathsome a person is, it's always better to tell a person's story from his point of view than to go about it through the eyes of others. Especially bad people biopics need to be told from their point of view. I recently came across an article which says that brad pitt's production company bought rights to harvey weinstein sexual abuse and reporting related story.

But i can't help but think that no matter how well they tell the story from reporters point of view like spotlight or victims point of view like bombshell it wouldnt do justice to the story. A prime example is, Loudest voice TV show with russell crowe is much better than bombshell. I think the best version of the story can come only through weinsteins perspective aka what makes a person go to such extremes. It has to debaucherous like a more serious version of wolf of wall street but with gross weinstein at the center of it. You have to show the, dare i say "allure" of that kind of behavior and you have to see power through his eyes. What it feels like to have power to control careers. Otherwise all the do-gooder reporting points of view or sad victims points of views will not tell the story in the best possible way.

At the end audience should understand the power dynamics and seduction of power rather than sit through a moral lecture. It should be upto audience to decide which path to choose.
It might come across a little bit exploitative to show it like that and some people might find it enticing but I think that's the best way. Thoughts ?

It would never be fun to see wolf of wallstreet from victim's point of view.



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I think you could show some of both points of views and there is a balance maybe?

When it comes to bad people, a biopic like Raging Bull I think did a good job, of creating some sympathy for a bad person.

But a movie like The Doors, made Jim Morrison to be so unsympathetic and so unlikable, that I hated it, and hated the person they were portraying, if that is how I was suppose to feel perhaps?

Or was The Doors not told from his point of view? It's hard to tell when he is in almost every scene, so how does one tell?



aronisred's Avatar
outrageous film reviewer
I think you could show some of both points of views and there is a balance maybe?

When it comes to bad people, a biopic like Raging Bull I think did a good job, of creating some sympathy for a bad person.

But a movie like The Doors, made Jim Morrison to be so unsympathetic and so unlikable, that I hated it, and hated the person they were portraying, if that is how I was suppose to feel perhaps?

Or was The Doors not told from his point of view? It's hard to tell when he is in almost every scene, so how does one tell?
I think if a biopic can successfully put audience in the mind of the main character and make them think like him/her...its done its job to the best. Of course for a movie like the doors..the main character is on drugs and depression and pain and lot of other stuff that sane people don't want to live through. But when it comes to portraying powerful people i think most people want to feel powerful and being able to do anything to anyone.



Welcome to the human race...
If the best way of making a Harvey Weinstein biopic still manages to somehow be exploitative and enticing, then maybe they should never make a Harvey Weinstein biopic.
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I really just want you all angry and confused the whole time.



If the best way of making a Harvey Weinstein biopic still manages to somehow be exploitative and enticing, then maybe they should never make a Harvey Weinstein biopic.
Exploitative no (using that word is automatically redefining the suggestion into the objectionable sphere), but enticing? Sure. Evil is always best understood in relatable human terms, since that's how it actually comes about. It's the stories that make evil out to be the product of cartoon villains that cause the most harm, because we then look at reality, don't see anyone twirling their mustache, and assume there's no evil around us.



If the best way of making a Harvey Weinstein biopic still manages to somehow be exploitative and enticing, then maybe they should never make a Harvey Weinstein biopic.

but you never know! We can all learn from the manipulator and his victims...


if the concern is the spotlight: Nobody should be silenced!


Or maybe everyone should be silenced...



THE ASSISTANT was an unofficial take on the Weinstein story and runs counter to your every suggestion. It’s also excellent and deserves checking out. A more mature, intelligent and powerful rumination on rape culture than PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN. It’s being unfairly ignored.

As for biopics in general, I think there’s no right way to do it. As a general rule, I’m more interested in those that try to tell a single event than an entire life.



As for biopics in general, I think there’s no right way to do it. As a general rule, I’m more interested in those that try to tell a single event than an entire life.
I agree with this. I liked the full-life-biopic style the first couple of times, but it became formulaic after maybe two iterations, if not one. You need look no further than Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story to see how quickly the formula became apparent, and Steve Jobs to see how you can encapsulate a life while technically centering the events around one (or just a few) events.



Welcome to the human race...
I would contend that "enticing" has its own questionable undertones - something like "intriguing" or "fascinating" communicates interest in the subject but in a more neutral manner.

In any case, I definitely question OP's idea of a hypothetical Weinstein biopic being similar to The Wolf of Wall Street, especially if the argument is that its lack of overt moral lecturing allows audiences to "choose a path" (which I'd argue that Wolf didn't do anyway regardless of how much discourse there was over whether or not it endorsed its characters' actions). Jordan Belfort wasn't the most complex character and the film was at least as much about criticising the industry/culture that inspired him and allowed him to thrive as it was about indicting him personally, if not more so (especially considering how the film ends on a shot of a room full of people wanting to learn how to be like him). I suppose a Weinstein biopic isn't technically impossible to make, but it'd be a hard needle to thread.



Welcome to the human race...
but you never know! We can all learn from the manipulator and his victims...


if the concern is the spotlight: Nobody should be silenced!


Or maybe everyone should be silenced...
Eh, we'll see. Making a good biopic is hard enough at the best of times.

THE ASSISTANT was an unofficial take on the Weinstein story and runs counter to your every suggestion. It’s also excellent and deserves checking out. A more mature, intelligent and powerful rumination on rape culture than PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN. It’s being unfairly ignored.

As for biopics in general, I think there’s no right way to do it. As a general rule, I’m more interested in those that try to tell a single event than an entire life.
I'll second the nod to The Assistant. Definitely gets at what I'm talking about in regards to how these movies have to examine and criticise the cultures that enable predators at least as much as they do the predators themselves (if not more so).



aronisred's Avatar
outrageous film reviewer
THE ASSISTANT was an unofficial take on the Weinstein story and runs counter to your every suggestion. It’s also excellent and deserves checking out. A more mature, intelligent and powerful rumination on rape culture than PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN. It’s being unfairly ignored.

As for biopics in general, I think there’s no right way to do it. As a general rule, I’m more interested in those that try to tell a single event than an entire life.
Movies like assistant and promising woman tell you how to think rather than allow you to make the decision yourself. If its made from weinstein's point of view and pose questions like....would you force a hot young actress in her early 20s for sex if she is contacting you regularly for roles and being nice to you because of your power and position ?

Its better that way than to tell audience this is bad. But there is also possibility that some people might say "yes" to the above question. Nonetheless i believe movies become more memorable only when they tempt audience to the dark side.



Movies like assistant and promising woman tell you how to think rather than allow you to make the decision yourself. If its made from weinstein's point of view and pose questions like....would you force a hot young actress in her early 20s for sex if she is contacting you regularly for roles and being nice to you because of your power and position ?

Its better that way than to tell audience this is bad. But there is also possibility that some people might say "yes" to the above question. Nonetheless i believe movies become more memorable only when they tempt audience to the dark side.
Have you seen the Assistant? Your pithy dismissal of it implies not. It asks far more immediate and important questions than “would you rape a girl you have power over,” to which most moral and thinking people would say “no.” Instead, it asks questions about social constructs that encourage and allow predators to survive. Would you ignore an ear ring in your boss’ office that you know belonged to an impressionable actress? Would you help your boss get a hotel room if you suspected he was going to use it for nefarious ends? Who would you tell if you were in this situation?

The Assistant is far less didactic and doesn’t fall into the inevitable pitfall of having to present the abuses in a likely exploitative way. Anti-heroes aren’t always the most complex or interesting approach to the material and your dismissal of anything from a systemic or victim’s side as preachy shows a greater bias than the one you’re projecting onto the film.



Definitely gets at what I'm talking about in regards to how these movies have to examine and criticise the cultures that enable predators at least as much as they do the predators themselves (if not more so).
I'm not sure this makes for a better story, which makes me concerned that this critique is not really about movies. We've touched on this before: the way more and more "criticism" is based not in the work itself, but on its possible cultural impact (or, to be more accurate, what someone is speculating the cultural impact might be). Caring more whether a film is instructing people the way we would like than whether it's a compelling and cohesive work of art.

It's not my experience that stories get better when they get broader. Just the opposite: the more focused, the more intimate, the more specific to a given situations they are, the more they tend to resonate. What you're describing sounds like good advice for making a comprehensive documentary.



I'm not sure this makes for a better story, which makes me concerned that this critique is not really about movies. We've touched on this before: the way more and more "criticism" is based not in the work itself, but on its possible cultural impact (or, to be more accurate, what someone is speculating the cultural impact might be). Caring more whether a film is instructing people the way we would like than whether it's a compelling and cohesive work of art.

It's not my experience that stories get better when they get broader. Just the opposite: the more focused, the more intimate, the more specific to a given situations they are, the more they tend to resonate. What you're describing sounds like good advice for making a comprehensive documentary.
We extrapolate social and structural criticism from specificity in narratives all the time. The degree of mundane details in capturing the life of the titular subject in the Assistant is what reinforces the greater topic the film wants to critique and it does it with a complete absence of grand standing, didacticism that it’s being accused of.

I also disagree that films and documentaries can’t operate on similar paradigms in regards to narrative presentation. Film is not a rigid art form of 3 acts, a climax and a pat theme.



We extrapolate social and structural criticism from specificity in narratives all the time.
Yes, but the key word is "extrapolate." The thing I responded to said "examine and criticize." That doesn't sound like something subtle that allows us to make our own connections to larger problems. It sounds overtly didactic.

To be fair, this has come up a few times before, so my interpretation is probably a little influenced by past discussions.

The degree of mundane details in capturing the life of the titular subject in the Assistant is what reinforces the greater topic the film wants to critique and it does it with a complete absence of grand standing, didacticism that it’s being accused of.
Understood. I should make it clear I'm not talking about The Assistant specifically, just the general idea that any film which tackles a difficult subject would necessarily be better by expanding its critique to the culture at large (particularly in a clear and obvious way).

I also disagree that films and documentaries can’t operate on similar paradigms in regards to narrative presentation.
You don't have to disagree, because I don't think this. But I do think that some film criticism is prioritizing the instructional value of films over their artistic value, sometimes without even understanding or appreciating the distinction.



Yes, but the key word is "extrapolate." The thing I responded to said "examine and criticize." That doesn't sound like something subtle that allows us to make our own connections to larger problems. It sounds overtly didactic.

To be fair, this has come up a few times before, so my interpretation is probably a little influenced by past discussions.


Understood. I should make it clear I'm not talking about The Assistant specifically, just the general idea that any film which tackles a difficult subject would necessarily be better by expanding its critique to the culture at large (particularly in a clear and obvious way).


You don't have to disagree, because I don't think this. But I do think that some film criticism is prioritizing the instructional value of films over their artistic value, sometimes without even understanding or appreciating the distinction.
I think films consistently use specific narratives to examine and criticize larger social constructs. That’s usually just how films operate, whether they are being overtly didactic or subtle.

I also think there is a place for didactic cinema and would place Spike Lee as among its greatest examples.

Have you seen the Assistant? If you had, you would see that your assertion doesn’t really fit the topic at hand. Especially when I get the sense he’s referring to how we have constant “bad seed” style anti-heroes but when you’re addressing THIS specific topic and ignoring the cultural elements, you actually shy away from the heart of the issue and become morally simplistic.

I addressed exactly how the Assistant avoids simple and easy moral questions that an anti-hero would approach such as the offered “would you rape/assault someone you have power over,” and asks more complex and seemingly banal moral questions that actually create and enforce these situations. Specificity leading to broader social critique in action.



I think films consistently use specific narratives to examine and criticize larger social constructs.
Yes, but I think I already indicated in the previous post that I agree with this. Obviously many great films tell a specific and focused story that elegantly parallels larger social debates. But I think the difference between a good film and a bad one is often whether they connect those dots for us or not.

That’s usually just how films operate, whether they are being overtly didactic or subtle.
I agree that they do it. I wouldn't agree (not that you're saying this) that it's generally good when they're overtly didactic about it. I tend to think subtle is better, not just artistically, but even for someone whose only concern is political advocacy.

I also think there is a place for didactic cinema and would place Spike Lee as among its greatest examples.
I suppose I'd agree if we're taking "a place for" literally (IE: it's good that it exists sometimes). I think the work itself usually suffers, though, and I would place Spike Lee among the examples of that, too. BlacKkKlansman, with its tacked on news footage, comes to mind. And I really like that movie! I just like it in spite of that.

Have you seen the Assistant? If you had, you would see that your assertion doesn’t really fit the topic at hand.
No, and I wasn't attempting to address anything about it. I excised part of the paragraph I quoted to (hopefully) make it clear that I was responding to the general principles being put forward, and again, it is at least somewhat influenced by past discussions here. Obviously part of this thread is now about that specific movie, and part of it's about the broader principles that go into that.

Especially when I get the sense he’s referring to how we have constant “bad seed” style anti-heroes but when you’re addressing THIS specific topic and ignoring the cultural elements, you actually shy away from the heart of the issue and become morally simplistic.
Sorry, who is the "he" in the beginning of this sentence, and the "you" at the end of it?



Yes, but I think I already indicated in the previous post that I agree with this. Obviously many great films tell a specific and focused story that elegantly parallels larger social debates. But I think the difference between a good film and a bad one is often whether they connect those dots for us or not.


I agree that they do it. I wouldn't agree (not that you're saying this) that it's generally good when they're overtly didactic about it. I tend to think subtle is better, not just artistically, but even for someone whose only concern is political advocacy.


I suppose I'd agree if we're taking "a place for" literally (IE: it's good that it exists sometimes). I think the work itself usually suffers, though, and I would place Spike Lee among the examples of that, too. Black BlacKkKlansman, with its tacked on news footage, comes to mind. And I really like that movie! I just like it in spite of that.


No, and I wasn't attempting to address anything about it. I excised part of the paragraph I quoted to (hopefully) make it clear that I was responding to the general principles being put forward, and again, it is at least somewhat influenced by past discussions here. Obviously part of this thread is now about that specific movie, and part of it's about the broader principles that go into that.


Sorry, who is the "he" in the beginning of this sentence, and the "you" at the end of it?
I think a better metric is whether or not a film explores its subject with authenticity. It’s target can be wide or narrow, it’s approach subtle or didactic, but if it is inauthentic it will have a worse effect. I think this is usually what people are accusing a film of when they say “preachy.” The message overrode its integrity and honesty.

That doesn’t mean that films should be dictated to use the scalpel in place of a sledgehammer or vice versa. Some subjects demand the sledgehammer, as much of Lee’s career, including Blackkklansman, demonstrates. I think righteous anger is a very powerful cinematic tool when wielded authentically.

You should watch the Assistant. It’s excellent.

The “he” was an assumption about Iroquois, whose name I couldn’t remember but whose Snake avatar remained in my head. The “you” was a general you. Apologies for the confusion.



I think a better metric is whether or not a film explores its subject with authenticity. It’s target can be wide or narrow, it’s approach subtle or didactic, but if it is inauthentic it will have a worse effect. I think this is usually what people are accusing a film of when they say “preachy.” The message overrode its integrity and honesty.
I certainly agree this is a major factor, which is to say I think this augments all the things I'm criticizing and maybe makes them better, if not good. But in the interest of common ground we can probably agree that there are a lot of outliers and exceptions to a lot of the "rules" about what makes for a good story. I am definitely speaking very generally and non-specifically.

I'm curious about that last bit, though, about the message overriding "integrity and honesty." What would that look like? To my mind, the "preachy" thing is about a film that cares more about making a point than it does about telling a good story in its own right. If the real question is one of authenticity, it seems to me someone could genuinely/authentically want to be didactic, want to be instructional, and honestly make that their priority. If they do, how would it be possible for that message to override its integrity?

That doesn’t mean that films should be dictated to use the scalpel in place of a sledgehammer or vice versa. Some subjects demand the sledgehammer, as much of Lee’s career, including Blackkklansman, demonstrates. I think righteous anger is a very powerful cinematic tool when wielded authentically.
I am delighted you said "sledgehammer," because initially I used the exact same word, but then decided not to elaborate on my reaction as much. It was something about how the news footage is a sledgehammer swung at us just in case we hadn't felt the 2x4s Lee'd been hitting us with the whole movie. To be clear, I'm not suggesting Lee should have been subtle, but we probably agree that even a necessarily and deliberately unsubtle film can eventually lay it on too thick. Obviously I think that was the case with BlacKkKlansman, even accepting (and mostly really liking) all the overt stuff earlier in the film, but to each their own.

You should watch the Assistant. It’s excellent.
I think I very likely will now, thank you.

The “he” was an assumption about Iroquois, whose name I couldn’t remember but whose Snake avatar remained in my head. The “you” was a general you. Apologies for the confusion.
No worries, just figured I should check. Thanks for clarifying.