'Good Fortune': Film Review

Courtesy of Big Picture Ranch
A feel-good, inspirational story.
6/23/2017

Joshua Tickell and Rebecca Harrell Tickel's documentary recounts the rags-to-riches story of billionaire businessman/philanthropist John Paul DeJoria.

By the time Joshua Tickell and Rebecca Harrell Tickell’s documentary about billionaire businessman/philanthropist John Paul DeJoria is over, you’ll want to know DeJoria. You’ll want to work for DeJoria. Hell, you’ll want to be adopted by DeJoria. The laudatory tone of this well-meaning, inspirational effort is so extreme that even Frank Capra might have dismissed it as being too good to be true.

And yet it is, according to the aptly titled Good Fortune.

DeJoria had a hardscrabble upbringing at the hands of a single mother in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles — his father abandoned the family when DeJoria was 2 years old — and despite this he has gone on to become a wildly rich entrepreneur who is apparently one of the good guys. This is a man who supports an organization fighting whale poaching; refuses to use animal testing for his products; donates to more than 150 charities; and anonymously buys meals for fellow restaurant patrons. The film includes a photograph of DeJoria posing with the Dalai Lama, and it’s hard to tell which of them looks more beatific.  

Lacking the funds or the grades to attend college, DeJoria joined the Navy as a young man. After his discharge, he struggled financially, at one point redeeming empty soda bottles to make a few bucks. He sold encyclopedias door-to-door for several years.

DeJoria’s life changed when he met pioneering hair stylist Paul Mitchell. The two men formed a company, with DeJoria creating an innovative business plan in which the products would not be sold directly to the consumer but rather only through hair salons. “Hair was big,” an interview subject points out about the 1980s, and the product line became a huge success. DeJoria proved that it wasn’t a fluke when he later created a luxury tequila brand, Patron, that became a sensation. Today he owns seven major corporations.

But as the movie often reminds us, success hasn’t changed DeJoria. Narrated by the subject's friend Dan Aykroyd in blustery tones reminiscent of a Saturday Night Live parody, it recounts DeJoria's life and career in unremittingly admiring fashion.

He’s still the decent, caring person he's always been, one who adores his mother and whose extended family is completely devoted to him. His relentlessly sunny persona easily transmits to his happy employees who literally get free lunches. The film includes a clip of DeJoria’s appearance on the reality show Shark Tank; when his fellow businessmen balk at supporting one contestant’s idea because he’s not charging enough for his products, DeJoria instantly offers the grateful man all the money he needs. In the climactic slow-motion shot of the ponytailed businessman riding a motorcycle, DeJoria looks like the most benevolent Hells Angel you’ll ever hope to meet.

Besides friends, family and colleagues, among those effusively singing DeJoria’s praises are his childhood friend Michelle Phillips, Ariana Huffington, Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo, Robert Kennedy, Pierce Brosnan, Robert Plant and Roger Daltrey. What, Bill Clinton wasn’t available?

It’s all a bit much, even if DeJoria himself comes across as well-balanced and unpretentious in his lengthy interview portions. He’s a swell guy, to be sure, but if he was really as modest as everyone says he is, this film would never have seen the light of the day.

Production companies: Big Picture Ranch, Green Planet Productions, Radical Hope
Distributor: Paladin
Directors-producers: Joshua Tickell, Rebecca Harrell Tickell
Screenwriter: Johnny O’Hara
Executive producers: Paul E. Cohen, Stephen Nemeth, Jonathan Sheinberg, Susan Ursitti
Director of photography: Simon Balderas
Editor: Ryan A. Nichols

Music: Ryan Michael Demaree

90 minutes

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