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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind 2020 * * * Stars


"Natalie was gone". Yes since November 1981. But we as an audience have the luxury of seeing her in fifty or so films that will never go away. Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind is a documentary about her rather short life (43 years). She earned three Academy Award nominations and appeared in some of the most iconic flicks ever made (Rebel Without a Cause, Miracle on 34th Street, West Side Story). "I believe, I believe, I believe". Indeed. 

So yeah, I've seen other stuff chronicling Wood. Those segments were shorter in length and delved more into her mysterious, eerie death. "What Remains" runs 100 minutes and sort of veers more towards the celebration of Natalie's time on earth. We even get Wood's daughter Natasha anchoring the docu with a compassionate love in regards to her late mother. 

"What Remains" while rather uneven and scattered in its approach, is still recommendable. Why? Because documentaries suck you in and HBO knows how to put out a professional project. There is plenty of archived footage, interviews from Natalie Wood's friends and family, and momentary insight into how her drowning demise still haunts the public today. Wood had a fear of dark water as well as going under in dark water. I share that sentiment and I share it threefold. 

In retrospect, Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind captures the cryptic legacy of Wood but it doesn't always know what it wants to be. Is it a platform for past husband Robert Wagner to let the world know he didn't have anything to do with her passing? Perhaps. Is it a panoramic view of Wood's personal life and her drive to not let the Hollywood system control her choice in film roles? Maybe. Is it strictly about her impressive filmography that spans the years 1943 to 1983? Probably. Director Laurent Bouzereau doesn't fully steer the viewer in the proper directions but it doesn't really matter. Wood's movie star face and immense screen presence cut through everything. The song "remains" the same. Rating: 3 stars.   

Written by Jesse Burleson

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