By Sarah Bennett

David Mamet's Phil Spector for HBO stars Al Pacino as Phil Spector as David Mamet.

5. This item is number five because, including David Mamet, that’s the total number of Mamets involved in the movie (which includes his wife, Rebecca Pidgeon). Oddly, the one junior Mamet who’s considered an acting talent, Zosia Mamet (Shoshanna on Girls), is not in this movie even though she was accused of getting hired on Girls due to nepotism. It appears that she might have gotten that job because of who her father is, but that wasn’t enough to get cast by her actual father.

4. David Mamet seems to think Phil Spector is innocent, or at least he points his entire movie in that direction, lead by Helen Mirren as Spector’s real-life attorney, Kenney Baden. The problem is that the script is a fabrication--the movie begins with a disclaimer that, “This is a work of fiction. It’s not ‘based on a true story.' It is a drama inspired by actual persons in a trial, but it is neither an attempt to depict the actual persons, nor comment upon the trial or its outcome.” In other words, Mamet created logistic evidence and “facts” presented at trial, not just conversations or imagined-yet-plausible situations, as most biopics do, to further his point that Spector didn’t do it. Mamet’s central thesis seems to be that Spector was eventually convicted, not because he had a long history of being a gun nut and abusive husband (both true), but because he was a weirdo (also true, but nowhere near as damning as pulling a gun on almost everyone who’s ever worked with him).  

3. David Mamet seems to think he’s Phil Spector, at least in terms of being a misunderstood genius who doesn’t deserve to be constantly accused of misogyny. While Mamet has written at least a few brilliant plays over the course of his career (Glengarry Glen Ross, American Buffalo), he’s also written a few that weren’t so great (The Anarchist, which closed about 10 minutes after it opened in December of last year), and more than that, his work goes a long way towards giving one the impression he’s not that fond of women. His play Oleanna, which is about a college student accusing a professor of sexual harassment in order to gain the upperhand, isn’t exactly a feminist take on the issue, and in The Verdict, the Sidney Lumet film he co-wrote, Paul Newman’s character straight-up punches a woman in the face. Mamet’s embrace of right-wing causes over the last ten years has further alienated him from those in the arts community, so it’s understandable that he’d do the Phil Spector story Elia Kazan-style (Kazan’s On The Waterfront, about corrupt union bosses, was a veiled defense for the director’s choice to name names during the McCarthy Era). So consider this movie less of The Real Phil Spector Story and more of On The Wierdofront, as it were.

4. David Mamet doesn’t understand how artistic redemption works. When Kazan got an honorary Oscar in 1999 that was an unofficial act of forgiveness from the Hollywood community, it wasn’t because the story of On The Waterfront convinced people he was innocent, but because the quality of his overall body of work was enough to make people forgive him for his personal indiscretions. This is not an uncommon occurrence, since many artists--from Roman Polansky, who’s both directed great films and done unforgivable things to an underage girl, to Coco Chanel, who made beautiful clothes but also ugly connections with the Nazis, to horrible, horrible Chris Brown--have had their personal trespasses forgiven by the quality of their talent (that’s “talent” if you’re talking about Chris Brown). Mamet might have gone out of his way to vindicate Phil Spector because he’s just a really big fan of the Righteous Brothers, but it’s more likely that he was doing all that heavy lifting of facts and truth to make a greater point about how we unfairly cast our geniuses out when their hits are behind them and their behavior becomes too strange (and maybe they murder someone). I can’t think of any celebrities this thesis applies to, but it certainly doesn’t fit either Spector or Mamet.

1. David Mamet managed to make the moment of the big wig reveal more sad than funny, so even if you don’t care about misogyny, the separate system of justice that talented artists exist under, or the song “Be My Baby,” but were thinking of seeing this movie on HBO Go, you now officially have no reason to bother. If you do care about any of those things, however, you have every reason to avoid this movie as you probably would the real-life Phil Spector.