Crime fiction specialist James Ellroy’s many fans will enjoy the podium afforded his hard-to-separate art and persona in “Feast of Death,” even if docu’s revelations have already been well-aired in interviews and his own nonfiction writing. The previously unconverted, however, may find scribe’s macho posturing a tad too studied and vain to sustain feature-length adulation. Nonetheless, subject could earn “Feast” specialty theatrical and cable exposure.
Key event in Ellroy’s life was the gruesome murder of his estranged mother, an L.A. divorcee his father (not a suspect) duly convinced junior was a promiscuous drunk. Still unsolved 1958 case bore eerie similarity to the famous “Black Dahlia” decapitation killing 11 years earlier. Much footage finds Ellroy holding court with LAPD homicide detectives as they rehash both slayings in a jocose mood. (At one point thesp-pal Nick Nolte joins them, saying nothing, just drinking in the tough-guy atmosphere.) Gruesome original crime scene photos and expletive-riddled talk won’t abet wide tube airing. But most off-putting aspects are Ellroy’s cumbersome self-regard and his tendency to speak extemporaneously in a mix of hyperbole and retro hipsterspeak better suited to the printed page. Tech package is verite-rough.