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Casting By

It’s an unabashed documentary love letter to the art of film casting, so there are some pitfalls regarding that. For instance, poor Taylor Hackford (director of films like 1982’s “An Officer and a Gentleman” and 2004’s “Ray”) is set up as the “bad guy” by being a vociferous naysayer in regards to casting professionals being called “directors“, and poo-pooing the desire of many that “casting” be given its own Oscar category. Should people be given Academy Awards for choosing the “right” performers for films? I’m not sure…so I honestly think Mr. Hackford may be correct. But how to overcome the almost unmitigated gushing of folks like Woody Allen, Peter Bogdonavich, Jeff Bridges, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall, Bette Midler, Al Pacino, Robert Redford and Martin Scorsese…among many others. Taylor Hackford was set up for the fall. But still, this is a fascinating time capsule, with many clips, and a lot of behind-the-scenes insight. How wonderful that so much of it focuses on the 1970’s–the finest decade of American filmmaking. Casting pioneer Marion Dougherty (she died at the age of 88 in 2011) is the “champion” of “Casting By”, and her story is an intricate and fascinating one. Lynn Stalmaster, Ellen Lewis, Wallis Nicita and Ellen Chenoweth get ample screen time too, but it’s really Ms. Doughtery’s show. And she’s a terrific spokesperson for the profession, as archival footage, along with interviews conducted in her waning years, will attest. And director Tom Donahue assembles all of these pieces expertly, and, at 89 minutes, avoids overstaying his welcome. A little more balance would have been instrumental in tamping down some of the effusive praise. But overall, “Casting By” is a compelling and worthwhile cinematic journey.

Grade: B+

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