Thursday, June 13, 2024

“FAYE”

THE STORY – In “FAYE”, the first feature documentary about screen icon Faye Dunaway, the Academy Award-winning actor candidly discusses the triumphs and challenges of her illustrious career, with breakthrough roles in “Bonnie & Clyde,” “Chinatown,” and “Network,” while also reflecting on the film she views as a critical career misstep, “Mommie Dearest.” Through those reflections, she courageously explores personal discoveries – her struggles with mental health issues and bipolar disorder, her family history, and how the intensity of the characters she played still impacts who she is today. In addition to Faye, the film includes interviews with her son Liam, as well as colleagues and friends such as Sharon Stone, Mickey Rourke, and James Gray.

THE CASTFaye Dunaway, Liam Dunaway O’Neill, James Gray, Mickey Rourke & Sharon Stone

THE TEAM – Laurent Bouzereau (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 91 Minutes


Directed by French-American filmmaker Laurent Bouzereau, “Faye,” the new documentary on the life and career of Faye Dunaway, opens with a revealing look at one of the most famous images of its subject: lounging by the pool the morning after her Best Actress Oscar win for “Network” (1976). Here, she’s surrounded by newspapers trumpeting her success, with an expression on her face that seems to say, “Is that all there is?” Shot by Faye’s ex-husband, photographer Terry O’Neill, the image – which is also the poster for the movie’s premiere at the Cannes Film Festival – perfectly encapsulates the ensuing documentary, which explores both the highs and the lows of Dunaway’s career with equal candor.

Bouzereau allows Dunaway to tell her story chronologically and in her own words through a series of remarkably open-to-camera interviews. These are interspersed with a wealth of fascinating archive material, including photographs, TV interviews, film clips, and occasional talking head contributions from co-stars, authors, critics, and family members. The film addresses the elephant in the room almost immediately, namely the fact that Dunaway, in her heyday, was legendarily regarded as being “difficult to work with.” In one of several amusing directorial touches, Bouzereau cheekily includes outtakes of Faye during the interview set-up, repeatedly adjusting her position and saying things like, “I’m not happy with ANYTHING here,” or “I need a GLASS of water, not a BOTTLE!” This ends up illustrating Dunaway’s eye for detail and desire for perfection, something that’s subsequently confirmed by the talking heads.

Throughout “Faye,” Dunaway proves compellingly perceptive of her career, noting that her early desire to create art served as an escape from various difficulties in her life, including an alcoholic father and a family fractured by divorce. On a similar note, her mother – with whom she remained close until her death – appears to have been a strong, capable, independent woman (who never remarried) whose influence informed several of Dunaway’s roles.

“Faye” is filled with great moments and incredible finds in terms of the archive footage. Highlights include footage of an as-yet-undiscovered Dunaway performing in plays or, perhaps even more delightfully, Faye being visible in a pan across Elia Kazan’s latest intake of acting students at the Lincoln Centre Group. Dunaway, in turn, credits Kazan as the man who taught her how to act, telling her, “Don’t be afraid of your feelings; they are your strength; they make you who you are.”

The documentary is as pleasingly thorough as you might expect when discussing Dunaway’s career highlights. The section on her breakout role in “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967) is particularly good, featuring footage from the Paris press conference for the movie and looking at its cultural impact, as well as serving up delicious trivia, such as the fact that Dunaway beat Jane Fonda to the role – which only seemed fair since Dunaway had originally sought Fonda’s role in “Hurry Sundown.” Similarly, the section on “Chinatown” goes into delectable detail on the oft-told story about a clash between Roman Polanski and Dunaway (when he exasperatedly plucked a hair from her head after it kept popping up mid-take) and the famous slap scene. This section also provides more personal detail, such as the fact that Jack Nicholson affectionately nicknamed Dunaway “Dread” (as in “The Dreaded Dunaway”) and apparently still calls her that, to Dunaway’s evident delight.

What’s most surprising about “Faye” is the amount of discussion it includes on “Mommie Dearest,” the biggest flop of Dunaway’s career, which she refers to as “one of the mistakes.” Her performance was widely derided at the time, and commentators acknowledge that the film proved a turning point for the worse in her career. But, the documentary offers fascinating perspectives from director Frank Perry (who is at pains to point out the movie’s subsequent cult success) and Mara Hobel, the child actress who played Joan Crawford’s daughter.

The documentary’s most moving segments involve Dunaway discussing her personal life, whether acknowledging that Marcello Mastroianni (with whom she had a clandestine affair, as they were both married at the time) was “probably the love of” her life or talking movingly about both the adoption of her son (who is on hand as a frequent talking head) or even her recent diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which she belatedly realized was behind her past violent mood swings. In addition to a thorough exploration of Dunaway’s life and career, Bouzereau makes room for several asides, ranging from the delightfully off-the-wall (her apparent addiction to Blistex) to the unexpectedly moving – most notably, her close friendship with Sharon Stone.

“Faye’s” final note is equally memorable, as Dunaway reflects on the fact that her real name (Dorothy Faye Dunaway) effectively makes her two people: one public, one private. Her son is given the closing word, perceptively describing her as “a normal person trying to be famous, who became a famous person trying to be normal.” By the time you reach the end of “Faye,” you feel you’ve gotten a respectable, fairly rounded look into not just the famous person you know and already love but the normal person you so desperately wanted to know.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Superbly structured, impeccably researched, and consistently fascinating, this is one of the best documentaries of the year and a must-see for fans of Faye Dunaway.

THE BAD - Given how candid Dunaway is about “Mommie Dearest,” it’s a shame the film only spends a few seconds on “Supergirl.”

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 8/10

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Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>Superbly structured, impeccably researched, and consistently fascinating, this is one of the best documentaries of the year and a must-see for fans of Faye Dunaway.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Given how candid Dunaway is about “Mommie Dearest,” it’s a shame the film only spends a few seconds on “Supergirl.”<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>8/10<br><br>"FAYE"