Catapulting yourself to the very top of your game, followed by a long fall from grace has remained a story as old as time. Yet when one of the most creative minds of the 20th century is indicted for murder, it’s still a tough pill to swallow. The word “genius” is often thrown around, and it has followed the name of Phil Spector for over 50 years.
The man has indisputably produced the soundtrack of a storied generation, one who’s embraced popular music as an accomplice for both the agony and joys of adolescence. The man has firmly stamped his legacy as a modern day Beethoven for song compositions. But like we’ve tragically learned so many times before, genius often follows insanity. In HBO’s made-for-TV movie, Phil Spector, the world was introduced to a disturbing method behind the madness. While the man has no-doubt lost a marble or two since the hey-day of his musical odyssey, Phil Spector paints the picture of a man who clings to his former glory like an old vinyl record (literally).
Suffering from delusional paranoia, Al Pacino brilliantly and hauntingly displays a man whose one-time accomplishments prove diluted from the behavior of his past. While the movie features such pop staples including “Unchained Melody,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” “Be My Baby” and “He’s a Rebel,” Spector’s life had become the common tale of a rock and roll recluse. Unfortunately, we were treated to the story through a B-grade, made-for-TV movie stamped with HBO’s prestigious logo. Not even the greatest soundtrack one could ask for had the potential to save this train wreck.
If you stripped away the A-list cast, the infamous tale and the line of awful wigs, this was a glorified CSI show at best. Leaving absolutely nothing on the table, (Dame) Helen Mirren served as Spector’s primary defense attorney, Linda Kenney Baden. As a servant to her desperate client, she suffered through Spector’s wild acquisitions such as “I invented the music business, where’s the statue of me?” and “I put black America in the white home.” Pacino delivered, as he always tends to do. Mirren and defense counselor Jeffrey Tambor (Bruce Cutler) wasted their talent on a film tailor-made for Lifetime’s brand of shameless drama. The film had poor direction written all over it; no one is going to sympathize with a man who has a history of violence towards women, wears funky wigs in the court room and will now spend the rest of his life in jail.
But the film does indeed make a compelling case for Spector’s innocence. As Mirren’s character so elegantly put it, “he’s a freak, they’re gonna convict him of ‘I just don’t like you.’” The defense assures the court that the victim, Lana Clarkson indeed put a pistol in her mouth, as opposed to Spector pulling the trigger. And while the man who created “the wall of sound” will now die in jail, we’re left wondering one major question: Did he do it, or is it simply another product of a corrupt system?
2/4 Stars. Phil Spector is currently airing on HBO. Watch the trailer and learn more here.