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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 Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

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 true.

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 nominations.

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

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