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Auto Focus

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Auto Focus

Starring: Greg Kinnear, Willem Dafoe
Director: Paul Schrader
Rated: R
RunTime: 104 Minutes
Release Date: October 2002
Genres: Drama, Erotica

*Also starring: Maria Bello, Marieh Delfino, Alex Meneses, Rita Wilson

Review by Susan Granger
2½ stars out of 4

Do you recognize the name: Bob Crane? When I got my first on-air job at WICC back in the '60s, he had already left Bridgeport for a disc jockey gig at KNX in Los Angeles. According to this obviously fictionalized biography, the handsome, likable Crane was a faithful husband until he got to Hollywood and became a sex-addict. That's the first error I caught - and it's a pivotal one. Truth is: Crane's reputation as a promiscuous womanizer had been firmly established within the Connecticut radio community. Then when his comedy series, "Hogan's Heroes" (1965-71), was a hit, we're led to think that he lost all sense of perspective. A photography-enthusiast and notorious hedonist, Crane had his sexcapades documented by an insidious buddy, John Carpenter, on a then-high-tech video-recorder. (The Sony brand is prominently displayed.) Living by the motto - "A day without sex is a day wasted" - these clueless, middle-aged Lotharios were proud "swingers" until Crane's flamboyant lifestyle cost him all respect within the entertainment industry. Eventually, he was bludgeoned to death with his own camera tripod in a motel in 1978. The perpetrator was never convicted but the script, adapted by Michael Gerbosi from Robert Graysmith's "The Murder of Bob Crane," leaves no doubt who did it. Directed by Paul Schrader ("American Gigolo," "Affliction"), this sordid story of the rise and decline of a modestly talented television actor elicits little sympathy. Greg Kinnear does an amazing impersonation of the cocky Crane and Willem Dafoe is impressive as his creepy enabler. Rita Wilson and Rob Liebman give strong support. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Auto Focus" is a depraved, depressing 6. And this tawdry, turgid saga of self-destruction leaves an aftertaste of profound sadness.

Copyright 2002 Susan Granger

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