Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind

 

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An introspective restoration of legacy and a definitive portrait.

 

Natalie Wood - What Remains Behind

  

In a career spanning nearly 40 years, Natalie Wood inhabited the hopes, fears, dreams, and tears of a generation in some of the most enduring classics in all of American cinema. You might say that America grew up with her. As a child star, she endears annually in Miracle on 34th Street. As a teen, she was labelled a Rebel Without a Cause and John Wayne spent years looking for her in The Searchers. As an adult, she worked with directing giants Elia Kazan (Splendor in the Grass), Robert Wise (West Side Story), Mervyn Leroy (Gypsy), and Robert Mulligan (Love with a Proper Stranger). By the age of 25, she was a three-time Oscar nominee who had successfully transformed herself from a child star into a serious actor and powerful Hollywood leader.

 

What Remains Behind is an intimate family snapshot expertly curated by Natalie’s daughter, producer Natasha Gregson Wagner, and the long-time Hollywood retrospective documentarian Laurent Bouzereau. From the gorgeous title sequence and beyond, the film is an invitation into Gregson Wagner’s living room for a private tour through the family photo album. An unprecedented amount of access brings this vibrant, effervescent woman to life in a way that few are likely to have seen until now. From personal photos and unseen home movies, to a rare, unpublished article written by Wood herself, the documentary is a treasure trove for classic film enthusiasts and an archive of a life well-lived. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall of Natalie’s infamous New Year’s Eve parties, with Fred Astaire tickling Cole Porter out of the ivories!

 

The initial thirty minutes of the doc present a concise overview of Natalie’s life and career. With that foundation in place, layers of the story are folded in for a richer experience of who Natalie Wood was as a woman, actress, wife and mother. Co-stars Elliott Gould, George Hamilton, Robert Redford, friends Mia Farrow, Mart Crowley and twice-over husband Robert Wagner provide insightful inner-circle context to the history. Redford credits his film career to Wood, who shows her formidable acting chops in the movies they made together, Inside Daisy Clover and Tennessee Williams’ This Property is Condemned. Gregson Wagner doesn’t shy away from darker elements of her mother’s story, as well as her many relationships over the years. Even the potential scandal involving Rebel director Nicholas Ray isn’t glossed over. Close friend Mart Crowley, who was a PA on Splendor in the Grass, discusses an accidental overdose and puts the Wood/Wagner/Beatty love triangle rumours to rest. Although her untimely passing takes precedence at times, the documentary achieves its objective, putting Natalie’s death to rest and rejuvenating her life and legacy.

 

A true love story, What Remains Behind is an invitation to rediscover Natalie Wood. Even those unfamiliar will be captivated by her and the earnest attempt to bottle her life into two hours. Seek out Natalie’s movies and delve further with Natahsa’s companion book, More Than Love: An Intimate Portrait of My Mother, Natalie Wood.

 

CHAD KENNERK

 

Featuring  Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, Mia Farrow, Elliott Gould, Natasha Gregson Wagner, George Hamilton, Peter Hyams, John Irvin, Robert Redford, George Segal, Jill St. John, Douglas Trumbull, Robert Wagner, etc.

 

Dir Laurent Bouzereau, Pro Laurent Bouzereau, Manoah Bowman and Natasha Gregson Wagner, Ph Sean Hill, Travers Jacobs, Toby Thiermann and Steven Wacks, Ed Jason Summers, Music Jeremy Turner.

 

Amblin Television/HBO Documentary Films-Home Box Office.

100 mins. USA. 2020. US Rel: 5 May 2020. No Cert.