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Road Warrior Makes Hollywood Detour

MOVIE REVIEW
Love the Beast (2009)

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Michael Klein/Tribeca Film Festival

Many people chase stardom, but the vast majority don’t make it far beyond auditioning by day and waiting tables by night. Ironically, the relative few who do make it often have other unrealized aspirations. Some actors prefer playing in a rock band, while others would rather be making shoes. Eric Bana wishes he could be a racecar driver. He dedicates his directorial debut, the documentary “Love the Beast,” to his lifelong obsession with a 1974 Ford XB Falcon Coupe. It’s his first car, one that he and his mates have spent endless hours fixing up while hanging out in his parents’ garage. But it’s also because of his unexpected brush with fame, that Mr. Bana has managed to perfect his ride and enter the Targa Tasmania, an imposing five-day rally and race in Australia.

“Love the Beast” boasts professional cinematography and editing that are increasingly obsolete in documentary filmmaking due to the affordability of digital media. These cinematic touches help elevate the film from what essentially is a glorified home video with a bloated budget. Jay Leno and Jeremy Clarkson, both noted gearheads, are on hand to provide celebrity testimonials; but it’s Dr. Phil McGraw who provides some needed perspective on Mr. Bana’s obsession with his first car. We’ve seen elsewhere how he has morphed from the ruggedly pudgy Chopper into the gym-sculpted Incredible Hulk, but Mr. Bana has apparently remained humble and grounded. He still prefers the same friends and the same car after all these years, and Dr. Phil explains that these are means to help Mr. Bana hold on to his true self amid the spotlight.

While not everyone shares that same enthusiasm for automobiles, Mr. Bana’s film unintentionally reminds us of Detroit’s glory days when the big, gas-guzzling American muscle cars were the ultimate symbol of status and personal freedom. At a time when the very survival of American automakers depends on government bailouts, building cars that harken to this long-forgotten ideal, ones that people fall in love with, just could be the key to the ailing industry’s future.

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