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Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)

Tucker: The Man and His Dream. Feature film. (1988, 115mins) IMDB

...The American Dream lives on in film...

I

f you told me there was man named Preston Tucker and in the 1940s he designed and built a better car, I wouldn't have believed you. Not in the period during and after WWII. But this film is built on real events and was a passion of the director since he's from Detroit.

Tucker had a passion for cars. He's a dreamer, an optimist. Nothing gets him down and in this film there are lots of reasons for getting him down.

The film has a straightforward structure. Introduce our hero and his family. He has an idea for a wonderful new car, but doesn't know where to go from there. He gets an idea for publicity. His car is featured in magazines and thousands of people are writing to him. They want the car. Since he's broke, he has to raise financing on Wall St. That means a money man in the form of Abe played by Martin Landau.

Act II is about building prototype or proof of concept so the brokers can sell the shares. Once they have the financing, they then have to find a factory and the materials to make the car. They also need an experienced auto executive to run the business and in the process management waters down the car.

There is also a dark force in the form of a Senator from Michigan played by Lloyd Bridges. The Big Three and the Senator want Tucker to fail.

As Act II ends, the pieces for Tucker are falling into place. The assembly line is producing cars, even if at a slow rate. Then disaster. The government brings fraud charges down on him. He stole money. His car isn't wasn't what he advertised. It's an injustice, but it brings a resolution of the story. There are court proceedings where it's clear the government in interfering with justice. They can't let Tucker succeed.

Meanwhile back at the factory his loyal employees are frantically working around the clock to produce fifty of his car and satisfy the terms of a contract he has with the government for lease of a factory complex.

The cars are made. Tucker makes an impassioned and trite speech about the "American Dream." The jury gives its predictable verdict and everybody parades out on the street as the 50 cars arrive from the factory.

The story didn't move me or interest me much. I can say I don't care about cars. I just don't get the fascination with a piece of metal.

There are some interesting trick shots in the film. In one, Tucker sits at the kitchen table at home as they discuss getting a factory. When he gets up from the table, he steps forward, flips his hat on and in the next step we're inside the factory.

The beginning uses a tongue-in-cheek, propaganda-feeling narration and industrial file. I think it sets the wrong tone for the film. It says it wants to be a satire and comedy, yet the film is a drama with dark undertones.

It was publicity that brought Tucker fame and his chance at a dream, and it brought him down, but surely it was folly to believe he could create a car company to rival Detroit.

Posted 2009/03/09 at 19h49ET in Movie Commentary.

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