IN THEATERS (SF) – “Harold and Lillian”

Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (2017; Dir.: Daniel Raim)

GRADE : C+

By Daniel Barnes

*Opens Friday, July 21 at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco, the Rialto Elmood in Berkeley, the Rialto Sebastopol in Sebastopol and the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.

When Andy Warhol opined that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes,” he forgot to mention that even those that never achieve fame will still get kid-glove documentaries made about them.  The latest over-inflated trifle is this cutesy “love story” about storyboard artist/production designer Harold Michelson and movie researcher Lillian Michelson, a married couple that put their thumbprints on a number of Hollywood classics.  A film about their respective processes, an examination of the way that minor contributors make a mark on another person’s work, could have been fascinating, but writer-director Raim seems content to equate Harold and Lillian’s contributions with authorship, which is insane.  It’s an easy watch, and there is the occasional intriguing glimpse into the inner workings of a long-lasting Hollywood marriage, but Lillian’s open refusal to discuss difficult aspects of her past limits any potential for insight, and makes you wonder why this movie even exists.  Crazy thought: if the subject of your soft-pedaling documentary refuses to talk about her own life, you probably don’t have enough material for a feature.