“There are three sides to every story,” Hollywood film producer Robert Evans’ raspy voice intones at the start of “The Kid Stays in the Picture.” “Your side, my side and the truth. And no one is lying.” In this quasi-documentary, filmmakers Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein (“On the Ropes”), let Evans tell his side of making it in the movie business.
The film, largely based on Evans’ memoir and narrated by the quintessential Hollywood Golden Boy himself, chronicles how the legendary producer churned out a string of hits — “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Love Story,” “The Godfather,” “Chinatown” — and how he later plunged into infamy. “Kid Stays” offers an insider’s view of the calculating and strategic world of the film business and the quick rise and fall of stars and studios. And if that’s not enough, the film gives a taste of the scandals, greed, murder and drugs that surround the business and Evans himself.
Morgen and Burstein use a melange of movie clips, archival footage, personal photos, and home videos to depict Evans’ life, but the result is more successful than an episode of “A&E Biography.” The witty juxtaposition of still photos, combined with inventive montages results in a fun film. A catchy soundtrack — spanning three decades in American music — supports the film and moves it at a steady clip.
And then there’s Evans, narrating an overly exaggerated version of his life story with a sense of humor that all too often verges on brazenness. Evans begins with the story of how he was discovered (poolside at a Hollywood hotel, by a famous actress), but soon realizes the truth: “I was a half-assed actor and I knew it.” So, he moved on to producing. The movie’s one-sidedness is so shameless that you have to laugh — Evans’ outlandish assertions about the directors he worked with over the years are the film’s highlights.
On Coppola directing “The Godfather,” Evans said, “I told him, ‘You shot a saga, pal, but you turned it into a trailer. Now you go back and make me a movie!'” Evans also offers scathing profiles on his fellow Hollywood studio heads, and the result is a hilarious Cliffs’ Notes version of the history of Hollywood.
Aside from chronicling Evans’ 35 years with Paramount Pictures, “Kid Stays” also delves into his personal life, specifically his relationship with former wife Ali MacGraw. He shares the high points of their marriage and describes how it dissolved into a painful divorce. The film also documents Evans’ lapse into depression, his experimentation with cocaine — “the world of white” — and his eventual snare in a drug bust. Evans, who maintains that “you live by the press, and you die by the press,” describes how his name was smeared in the same papers that once upheld him as “the king of the mountain.”
“Kid Stays” is a biting but one-sided portrayal of a lonely man consumed with his work and success. Though it often seems more like an egotistical publicity stunt for Evans’ own memoir, and sometimes plays more like a glorified episode of “Biography” than a full-length documentary, this film works. If you are interested in Evans and how his classic films were made, then this “Kid” is all right.