Film Review: Celebrity: Dominick Dunne

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SYDNEY -- The Australian directors of "Celebrity: Dominick Dunne" have caught the Vanity Fair scribe in a reflective, twilight-years mood, which adds some heft to what could have been a marginal character study. Dapper, starstruck, tough, charming and flawed, the celebrated chronicler of the rich and famous provides a complex prism through which to view the enduring cult of celebrity.

Elegantly following the arc of a sometimes tragic, almost-famous life that bridges old Hollywood and new, the filmmakers underscore the distortion of reality that accompanies fame. And Dunne helps the process along, providing plenty of self-aware, remarkably honest commentary.

He confesses to being a social-climbing name-dropper and a failure at family life, admitting he can "write assholes so well" because he was one. Actor-director Griffin Dunne stops shy of agreeing but calls his dad "a human being in development" and paints an unflattering picture of Dunne in the '60s, reverentially ironing and then cataloguing celebrity acceptances to invitations for his parties.

Those parties were worth remembering: The doc is sprinkled with home video of Rock Hudson, Jane Fonda and Natalie Wood cavorting on a beach; other soirees attracted Judy Garland, Bette Davis and Cary Grant.

But Melbourne filmmakers Timothy Jolley and Kirsty De Garis, whose interest was piqued after interviewing Dunne for a magazine article, probe a little deeper and find a man with a rich history and a few regrets.

The decorated World War II veteran, movie producer and best-selling author suffered through a difficult childhood and fell into drug and alcohol abuse following divorce from his heiress wife, Lenny. The murder of his actress daughter Dominique led to a second career as the chronicler of high-profile court battles -- and a lofty perch as "the world's most famous journalist."

A series of interview sessions and top editing by Suresh Ayyar bring the many strands of Dunne's character into focus. Which is no mean feat as the man is, as he admits, "complicated."


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