CHASING THE LIGHT by Oliver Stone
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Book reviewed by Lee Sobel
3 out of 5 stars
I am an Oliver Stone Fan: movies he directed like Platoon, The Doors, JFK, Natural Born Killers; scripts he wrote like Scarface and Midnight Express. So when I found out he'd written his memoirs I was excited to get my hands on the book. Having read Jane Hamsher's 1997's book, Killer Instinct about Oliver Stone directing Natural Born Killers, and having seen the documentary Platoon: Brothers in Arms (2018), I am well aware that as brilliant a filmmaker as Oliver Stone is, his reputation as a loose cannon precedes him. Well, the fact that Stone portrays himself as a suffering artist who makes it big in Hollywood and never depicts himself as overstepping the line of treating people unethically should be no surprise, right? Although he does recount that he argued and kicked his production manager in the ass during the making of Platoon and that there was a dispute between the producers on the set of that movie, there is very little in the way of self awareness of how Stone's actions affected others. If you watch Platoon: Brothers in Arms you get a very good idea of how cruel Stone can be to get results for his movies, and while it is undeniable that Platoon is one of the greatest war movies ever made, I would like to have seen at least a reaction by Stone to the stories told
about him. In this case he's assuming you don't know anything about that so his version of his life is a bit too clean and boring, if you ask me. Why not meet the controversy head on -- go ahead and deny it if you want, Mr. Stone, but at least acknowledge the fact that some people think you're an asshole.
Overall, the book was disappointing for me and feels more like the treatment of the script of his life instead of the final draft -- the ideas are there but they feel more described than lived. Stone postures as a literate intellectual, constantly comparing himself or events to things like Homer's Odyssey which feels pretentious and lacking real emotion. I was disappointed that given his pedigree as an Academy Award winning screenwriter that he didn't recreate scenes from his life with dialogue so that moments could come alive. I was disappointed that his recounting of his time as a soldier in Vietnam did not unfold in a clear step by step way to put the reader in his shoes. I was disappointed that as iconic as his movies are, he did not take the reader through a logical progression of events. He kind of gives you the highlights and they aren't very exciting. The book ends after he wins the Academy Award for best director and best picture for Platoon. So I guess we will have to await the next volume to find out about JFK, The Doors, NBK etc. I hope Mr. Stone makes the next book a lot more dramatic and exciting than this one. I want to give this book two out of five stars but because I like Stone's movies so much, I am begrudgingly giving Chasing the Light three out of five stars.