Hal Ashby’s obsessive genius led to an unprecedented string of Oscar-winning classics. But as contemporaries Coppola, Scorsese and Spielberg rose to blockbuster stardom in the 1980s, Ashby’s uncompromising nature played out as a cautionary tale of art versus commerce.
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Amy Scott's documentary/biography of Hal Ashby certainly lacks the genius that went into the work of her subject at hand. Ashby's career was a marvel until the 80's hit when it took a dive with the change in the corporate culture in Hollywood. But the film only spends the last 20 minutes on this while revelling in the seven classic films Ashby made during the 70's but never getting to the heart of their creation.
One grows tired, does one not, of these neutered hagiographies? You could know next to nothing about Hal Ashby and still learn nothing from Any Scott's doc. Ashby: fascinating artist and dynamic dude, inarguably a deeply telling product of his time. We know this. Right? I feel increasingly like most documentaries assume their audiences are clueless, bereft of even perfunctory learning, needing the basics explained.