The poignant doc on Val Kilmer.
With major flicks like “Top Gun,” “Batman Forever,” “Top Secret,””The Doors,” “Heat,” and “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” Val Kilmer has made a name for himself. The documentary “Val” explains it all with a poignant and emotional truth about his life and career.
The doc begins with Val reminding us of how he’s recovering from throat cancer, but doesn’t talk as well as he used to, which is why his son Jack provides the narration in this film. Every time I see Val struggle to talk clearly with his device, tears came to my eyes. It’s very hard seeing such great talents succumb to illnesses.
Val started filming his life, and left the VHS tapes and home movies in boxes. They consist of auditions, behind the scenes, and ideas. He wanted to tell his story through film. His brothers Wesley (the director and artist) and Mark helped him make some home movies, including a “Jaws” remake, while his father Eugene was head of Liberty Engineering and his mother Gladys was a spiritual woman.
The home movies ended when he lost his younger brother Wesley in a drowning accident, and he also had some struggles at Juilliard, but was able to expand his horizons. He also got the lead role on the New York play “Slab Boys,” until Kevin Bacon bumped him to second lead, and then Sean Penn bumped him to third lead. Since he was given small roles, he had to get himself out there.
Then, he landed his first movie role in the spy parody “Top Secret,” in which he also did some singing. This lead him with the name Iceman in “Top Gun,” which he was forced to do via studio contract. At first, he thought the script was silly and there was very little to his character, which is why he made him real. And he also married his “Willow” co-star Joanne Whalley, years until their divorce in 1996.
Back to Wesley’s death, his father blamed himself and felt detached, but Val still wanted to make him happy. It’s hard to imagine their pain, and that’s how you sympathize them.
Back to the home movies, he tried to land roles in “Full Metal Jack” and “Goodfellas” with audition tapes, but to no avail. That is until his next audition tape landed him in the biography film “The Doors,” in which he portrayed Jim Morrison.
“Batman Forever” was one of the films I grew up with, contrary to some popular belief, so I was really excited to see that this doc would talk about that film. Val was a Batman fan, he got to visit the set of the Adam West TV show, and when he got the call about the 1995 film, he didn’t even read the script. He just said “yes,” although he hated wearing the suit for being uncomfortable and not letting him hear. Guess he made the right choice of turning down the lead for “Batman & Robin.” Ya think?!
And he’s also produced himself a one-man stage show, in which he portrays Mark Twain, entitled “Citizen Twain.” It was a major hit on tour, until Nashville, when he lost his voice, and struggled to regain it. That was it for him.
Given Val’s current state, it’s often hard to acknowledge that life moves forward quickly, and makes me miss the good old days. But this documentary represents his life in the most beautiful sense, kudos to directors Ting Poo and Leo Scott, Val’s recordings, and Jack’s narration. There are some funny moments, but there’s mostly touching and tearjerking moments, all recorded by Val. Actors are human beings too, and so you’re able to see this actor reflect his life through the highs and lows.
In Select Theaters and Streaming on Amazon Prime