Linda Cook review: Documentary reveals fascinating life of Val Kilmer

Local News

Is he Batman to you?

Maybe he’ll always be Jim Morrison. Or Iceman.

Whatever image you mentally conjure when you hear the name of actor Val Kilmer, he leads a far different life than he did when your first had that image of him. You can see how his life has changed in “Val,” an intimate, philosophical documentary that runs the gamut from his childhood to the present.

Kilmer is 61 now. Because of throat cancer, he can speak only through a port in his larynx. The film’s narration is provided mostly by Kilmer’s son Jack, who sounds a lot like his famous father.

Co-directors Leo Scott and Ting Poo emphasize the reason we’re able to see so much of the star’s previous life: From the time he was a kid, Kilmer loved using a video camera, he shot random scenes with his family in the 1960s and acted in “movies” with his brothers. He took the camera with him through his early days of performance through his studies at Juilliard and behind the scenes of films like “Top Gun” and “Tombstone.”

It’s wonderful to see the other actors in casual moments with Kilmer – Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, and even Marlon Brando make appearances.

Always, Kilmer’s family is part of the narrative. We learn about his complex relationship he had with his father and how his career affected his marriage to actress Joanne Whalley – it’s especially fun to see them fall in love, and the scenes of their wedding are sweet.

The movie includes clips from many of Kilmer’s finest performances in such movies as “The Doors.” While I watched, I was amazed at how many movies have featured Kilmer, and how different – but similarly intense – his characters have been.

You don’t have to be a diehard fan of Kilmer to appreciate his reflections on Hollywood and his own life.

3 stars

Streaming on Prime Video.

Running time: One hour and 49 minutes.

Rated: R for foul language and adult situations.

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