Director: Josh Greenbaum
Writer: Josh Greenbaum
Producer: Josh Greenbaum, Christopher Leggett, Rafael Marmor
Stars: George Lazenby, Josh Lawson, Kassandra Clementi, Jane Seymour, Jeff Garlin, Jake Johnson, Dana Carvey
Over comedic recreations, George Lazenby recalls the unusual circumstances leading to his one-time appearance as James Bond.
Unusual tales often need to be told in unusual ways. To follow the domino line of unexpected events leading George Lazenby from an Australian used car lot to his one-and-done appearance as cinema’s greatest superspy, filmmaker Josh Greenbaum employs a cleverly creative conceit.
Instead of a traditional talking head tell-all, the horse’s mouth narrates affectionately humorous recreations for a movie best described as a docudramedy. Lazenby’s life leading up to and during his time with “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” overflowed with swinging 60s swagger and salaciousness, peppered by dashes of slapstick and sweetness. It’s fitting that “Becoming Bond” opts for an unconventional approach echoing the same teases of mischievous silliness and larger-than-life style that essentially defines Lazenby himself.
“Becoming Bond” edges further toward “-tainment” than it does toward “info-.” With the tip of its tongue perpetually touching its cheek, the film has noted comedic actors like Jeff Garlin and Dana Carvey playing real-life personalities as somewhat comic caricatures. No one would peg actor Josh Lawson to play James Bond. But Lawson has the quirk and the smirk to aptly embody Lazenby’s affable appeal through a sarcastic smarminess in keeping with the dramatized doc’s likably laid back tone.
The film’s focus is also more on the “Becoming” than it is on the “Bond.” Outside of initial introductions, the words “James Bond” aren’t even spoken aloud until the 53-minute mark in what is a 92-minute movie. 007 fans might scrunch noses at news that behind-the-scenes dirt on their favorite franchise composes barely a breadcrumb on Lazenby’s trail toward fleeting superstardom. Though they’d be remiss to dismiss a nonetheless enjoyable biography on the grounds that there is little backstage muckraking to be done.
Emerging instead is an often heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking story of an ordinary man surfing a wave of extraordinary circumstances with only a “devil may care” attitude to maintain his balance. Lazenby comes across as cockily cavalier, yet not without abundantly charismatic charm, as he dares anyone to expose his true identity at every turn, and gets away with the gamble each time. Until crapping out on the final dice roll that would drastically alter his life a second time, that is.
Greenbaum roots out a fascinating throughline via Lazenby’s doomed “on again off again” romance with the one who got away, Belinda. Despite two wives during his post-Bond days, Belinda is depicted as the clear love of Lazenby’s life, still capable of bringing true tears of regret to a 77-year-old man. Not only does Greenbaum recognize this woman’s role in steering Lazenby’s course, Greenbaum clues into the less obvious part she plays in Lazenby’s ongoing evolution from overconfident tomcat, ironically the attitude that got him the Bond gig, to introspective man of maturity. Their ill-fated romance anchors “Becoming Bond” with a surprisingly bittersweet moral that losing true love was the biggest price Lazenby paid to take, and ultimately spurn, the opportunity of a lifetime.
In fairness to the absence of Lazenby’s two wives and five children, none of whom are acknowledged with so much as a mention, “Becoming Bond” effectively ends, almost abruptly, with Lazenby’s 007 divorce circa 1970. At the time, Lazenby had little idea he was signing up for the blacklist, as well as to be a pop culture punchline, by not signing a deal worth several more Bond films and a $1 million bonus.
Was it arrogance or ignorance that led to George Lazenby’s willful refusal to jump on set-for-life wealth and fame? While admitting in retrospect that he made a mistake, George’s side of the story is that living life on his own terms was more important. The movie doesn’t go deep enough to get into the real nit and grit of the why or full scope of his decision’s subsequent consequences. Yet his “que sera, sera” sigh of contentment concludes Lazenby’s recollections on a satisfying sentiment for the small segment of his life story told here.
“Becoming Bond” can be accused, and swiftly found guilty, of being too casually romanticized. It may be fluffily fictionalized for the documentary half of its DNA. But the storytelling is so smartly entertaining for the dramedy quotient that the takeaway upholds the adage, “if it ain’t true, it ought to be.”
Review Score: 85