ROCK HUDSON: ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWED **1/2 (105 minutes) M
The triumphs, transgressions and ultimate tragedy of one of the most important figures in the evolution of gay culture is soundly captured in Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed.
Copiously illustrated with huge amounts of archival footage, private photos and magazine clippings, the film closely dissects the remarkable double life Hudson was able to maintain for most of his career.
To his adoring public he was a finely honed Hollywood star defined by heterosexual masculinity admired by men and adored by women.
Privately, as we all know by now, he was gay, an aspect of his life he needed to keep suppressed for the sake of his career in a conservative, scandal-hungry environment.
Clearly revering his subject, director Stephen Kijak tells Hudson’s story in great detail and in mostly adulatory terms through many interviews with friends, actors, associates and collaborators.
The quotes from Doris Day are revealing about how well-composed Hudson was about hiding his true self, though the most revealing views come from Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin, with whom Hudson formed a strong bond.
The film’s emphasis on Hudson’s importance to the gay movement swells as it covers his battle with AIDS and incredibly sad death.
Particularly unnerving was his treatment at the hands of the French. When he became stricken they didn’t seem to want him in their hospitals, so a 747 had to be privately chartered.
Perhaps most telling of all was Hudson’s famous kiss with Linda Evans on Dynasty where he became consumed with fear of passing anything on to her as they locked lips for the camera.
Hearing Evans recount the scene proves moving, as do the words from Doris Day, Elizabeth Taylor, Piper Laurie and others. Hudson might not have been a ladies’ man, but women were at the heart of some of the most resonant relationships of his life.
A fine documentary and a fitting salute that fans will enjoy, there is one big fly in the ointment.
A deeply regrettable stylistic decision was made to use quotes from film clips of Hudson’s work to provide commentary, as though they were somehow revealing insights about his life and inner thoughts.
It’s a gimmick, sure, and there’s nothing wrong with gimmicks provided they’re used wisely and sparingly.
As it is, the device is here so overused it becomes positively annoying, often interrupting the flow of the story at key points, such as the announcement of Hudson’s death. The interjections are not only distracting, they become tacky.
Some judicious editing would have improved the film a great deal.
Other than that major quibble, the film serves as a fitting, arguably overdue tribute to a movie star who somehow managed to serve the expectations of Hollywood while simultaneously defying its demands about how its stars should live their lives. Talk about a role model.
If anything, the film serves as testament to how Hudson was able to have his cake and eat it. A rare feat, indeed.
Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed is available to rent or buy on: AppleTV; Microsoft; Prime; and Fetch