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Phil Spector (2013)

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A drama centered on the relationship between Phil Spector and defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden while the music business legend was on trial for the murder of Lana Clarkson.

Director:

David Mamet

Writer:

David Mamet
Reviews
Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Another 2 wins & 35 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Al Pacino ... Phil Spector
Helen Mirren ... Linda Kenney Baden
Jeffrey Tambor ... Bruce Cutler
Chiwetel Ejiofor ... Mock Prosecutor
Rebecca Pidgeon ... Dr. Fallon
John Pirruccello ... Nick Stavros
James Tolkan ... Judge Fidler
David Aaron Baker ... DDA Alan Jackson
Matt Malloy ... Dr. Spitz
Jack Wallace ... Music Store Owner
Dominic Hoffman ... Mr. Brown
Philip Martin ... James
Grim Reaper Q. Grim Reaper Q. ... Bodyguard
Vernon Campbell ... Bodyguard (as Vernon W. Campbell)
Adalgiza Chermont ... Focus Group Woman (as Adalgiza Chemountd)
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Storyline

Record Producer Phil Spector (Al Pacino) hires Bruce Cutler (Jeffrey Tambor) to defend him when he's accused of murder. Cutler persuades Linda Kenney Baden (Dame Helen Mirren) to advise him. While the prosecution's story is contradicted by facts in the case, there is convincing circumstantial evidence against Spector, not the least of which is his appearance. As Baden gradually takes over the defense, even as she is ill with pneumonia, she must find a way to introduce ballistic evidence in a dramatic enough fashion to plant doubt in the jury's mind. Calling Specter to testify may be the only way to stage the evidence. She coaches him and rehearses him: can he (and she) pull it off? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The truth is somewhere in the mix.

Genres:

Biography | Drama | Music

Certificate:

TV-MA | See all certifications »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Dame Helen Mirren replaced Bette Midler. Midler was forced to bow out of the project after suffering a herniated disc. See more »

Goofs

In his opening monologue Phil Spector talks about Senator Ted Kennedy's 1968 infamous car accident in Martha's Vineyard. He claims the Senator "hid under a blanket" after drowning a "teenager" in a "Volkswagen". Although he did hide under a blanket for 72 hours, Mary Jo Kopechne drowned in an Oldsmobile a few days shy of her 29th birthday. See more »

Quotes

Bruce Cutler: The girl fucking shot herself.
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Crazy Credits

'This is a work of fiction. It's not "based on a true story." It is a drama inspired by actual persons in a trial, but it is neither an attempt to depict the actual persons, nor to comment upon the trial or its outcome.' See more »

Connections

Spoofed in Saturday Night Live: Vince Vaughn/Miguel (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

Unchained Melody
Written by Alex North and Hy Zaret
Performed by The Righteous Brothers
Courtesy of Universal Records
Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
See more »

User Reviews

 
The damndest sorta-true, sorta-false story in years
26 March 2013 | by StevePulaskiSee all my reviews

"This is a work of fiction. It's not 'based on a true story.' It is a drama inspired by actual persons in a trial, but it is neither an attempt to depict the actual persons, nor to comment upon on the trial or its outcome." Above is the disclaimer that precedes David Mamet's Phil Spector. If I didn't know what to think of a biopic on the extreme eccentric character Spector was and remains, I really didn't know what to think after seeing that. This is a film that is just as enigmatic as its title figure, and earns its first strength by not judging, objectifying, or even shortchanging him despite his conviction. To make a biopic that lacks a viewpoint on its subject is a difficult, and often rare thing to do, yet the closer I look, the more I feel that Mamet made this film solely off of the fact that Spector is a compelling and unique figure.

For those unaware, Phil Spector was a renowned record producer in the sixties and seventies, known for helping The Ronettes, John Lennon, and The Ramones achieve untold heights with their music. Spector, himself, achieved notoriety in the public eye for being a true force of energy and uncompromising in his pursuit for greatness with his artists. In 2003, a woman named Lana Clarkson was found dead in his mansion from a gunshot wound through her mouth. Spector was quoted that night saying, "I think I killed somebody," and has had a known history with threatening violence to his girlfriends. But Spector's defense team has fought day-in and day-out to prove that it would be impossible for him to have committed the murder, due to the lack of evidence on crucial pieces (IE: lack of blood on his jacket).

Mamet decides to set his sights on the events preceding the first trial and the events of it, with Al Pacino assuming the role of Spector and Helen Mirren embodying Linda Kenney Baden, his attorney. The first act of the film focuses on the interworkings of Spector's defense team, where we see Baden and Bruce Cutler (Jeffrey Tambor) try to enact a plan for going about Spector's impending trial. Only until about twenty-minutes in do we see Spector, who is portrayed as a ruthless, foul-mouthed, arrogant, frustrated time-bomb on the verge of an implosion due to media scrutiny and constant false allegations. The film's most powerhouse scene comes when we first meet Spector, and him and Baden have a long, fifteen minute monologue together in Spector's luxurious mansion. During the course of it, the dialog is fast-paced, always engaging, and buoyed greatly by two terrific performers.

Pacino and Mirren unsurprisingly carry the film to heights it may not have seen had lesser performers been placed in their roles. Think of the drudgery that would've taken place had those two cinematic greats been swapped for second/third-rate performers in their first moderately big film. I'm already a tad shocked that Phil Spector has been sidelined to primetime programming on HBO, when it clearly has the names to make it to the theaters (besides Pacino, Mirren, and Mamet, director Barry Levinson is credited as producer). But I suppose the real question is, would this film have made it out of the theaters with its budget and then some? Is this a story that could be universally appealing? My answer is no, because Phil Spector is not a perfect film and is story could be viewed as mundane with the abundance of other courtroom dramas. The trouble the film runs into the most is its length; it feels like Mamet was given a specific runtime before he even started shooting the film and couldn't make it any longer or shorter than ninety-five minutes. For this reason, some scenes (take the courtroom ones) feel short and undercooked, and the ending wraps everything up untidily after the first trial, which was declared a mistrial. With the wealth of information on only Spector's case, but the possibilities that could've resulted because of Spector's true enigma and personality as a whole, a whole hour could've been attached on to the ending. It seems silly to hire big names like Pacino, Mirren, Tambor, and Mamet for an ambitious project, but only utilize them for ninety-five minutes entirely.

Even though the picture remains unbiased, it is a relatively unsurprising fact that both sides of the Spector case have been able to get fired up about some element in the film. Clarkson's family feels that she was portrayed in an overly dramatic, unstable manner, while Spector defenders say that the "time-bomb" personality Pacino generates on screen isn't accurate at all. The way I see it, you can judge Mamet on the way he portrays the characters here, but you can't say he takes sides here. Both sides seem to have truths to them, and neither of them are given cold hard facts.

Mamet conducts the picture fluently and interestingly, even offering something of a commentary on the current state of our legal system and how we may have a problem at judging personality over person or something along those lines. Pacino's embodiment of Spector is wholly memorable, Mirren provides the picture with true elegance, and the supporting performances are forbidden to tread the line of unimportance. It's just a shame the scope wasn't broader, and the story more inclusive.

NOTE: Phil Spector will be playing on HBO for the remainder of March and April.

Starring: Al Pacino, Helen Mirren, Jeffrey Tambor, and Matt Molloy. Directed by: David Mamet.


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

24 March 2013 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Phil Spector See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

HBO Films See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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