The Doors is another trip into 1960s hell from Oliver Stone. This $40 million look at Jim Morrison’s short, wild ride through a rock idol life is everything one expects from the filmmaker – intense, overblown, riveting, humorless, evocative, self-important and impossible to ignore.
As rendered with considerable physical accuracy by Val Kilmer, Morrison is drunk and/or stoned practically from beginning to end, providing an acute case study of ruinous excess. The singer’s obsession with death and mysticism is rooted, via a sepia-tinged prolog, in a childhood experience in which he views the aftermath of a traffic accident involving some Indians.
Action proper begins in 1965, as Morrison the would-be poet and pretentious UCLA student filmmaker hooks up with flower child Pamela Courson (Meg Ryan) and launches a band in Venice, Cal, with John Densmore, Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger.
Outside of Morrison’s abusive, drug-drenched relationship with Courson, only two of his innumerable sexual trysts are detailed – one with the exotic Velvet Underground star Nico, the other with the demonic Patricia Kennealy (Kathleen Quinlan).
Kilmer is convincing in the lead role, although he never allows the viewer to share any emotions. Morrison’s own vocals have been skillfully augmented by Kilmer in some sequences.
The usually engaging Ryan brings little to a vaguely conceived part, whereas Quinlan commands the screen.