In Paul Schrader's engrossing AUTO FOCUS, the reporter asks Bob Crane, the star
of the hit 1960s TV series, "Hogan's Heroes," the secret of keeping his family
happy while he was busy with his career. "Don't -- make -- waves," he says very
slowly and precisely. As this film, based on Robert Graysmith's biography of
Bob Crane, reveals, Bob had some big secrets. His activities away from home
consisted of a lot more than work. He was a guy with a wife, Anne Crane (Rita
Wilson), and a mistress, Patricia (Maria Bello), as well as a different woman,
sometimes two, just about every night.
The smoothly likeable Crane is played by a perfectly cast Greg Kinnear. Crane
is the sort of big smiling guy who attracts women with ease and fools his wife,
but not his forgiving mistress, just as effortlessly. "That's me," Crane
introduces himself to us in voice-over. "I'm a likeable guy," which is so
Willem Dafoe plays John Carpenter, a techno geek with all of the latest
bleeding-edge video technology of the 1960s. Crane and Carpenter are the
self-described Batman and Robin of the sex party world. Both Kinnear and Dafoe
deliver chilling yet sympathetic performances that should earn them Oscar
They had dual lives. Crane was a funny guy acting in German POW camp comedy
during the day and a drummer at strip clubs at night. Carpenter installed
unheard of technology in the homes of the rich and famous during the day and was
Crane's companion at night. After the clubs closed, they took women to
Carpenter's house for an almost nightly orgy. Although Carpenter reeked slime,
Crane was a very Catholic guy with a model suburban family. He was pretty
stupid too -- keeping a photo scrapbook and videotapes of his conquests. He saw
himself as normal. After all, he tells us, "I don't drink. I don't smoke. Two
out of three ain't bad."
"A day without sex is a day wasted," Crane tells us. By that metric, he should
have been one of the happiest men on earth. But as the somber final act shows,
he came to pay the piper for his disconnect with reality.
AUTO FOCUS runs 1:47. It is rated R for "strong sexuality, nudity, language,
some drug use and violence" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes