(Photo via Hulu)
Josh Greenbaum‘s Becoming Bond surprised me with its heart and sincerity. The documentary/narrative based on the life and times of George Lazenby can be wildly funny at times, but it’s also a real crowdpleaser with its underdog story. Lazenby, who had never acted in his life, became the first actor to succeed Sean Connery with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The film could’ve easily been a cynical cautionary tale into what fame can do to a man, and the side effects of becoming this famous. But Greenbaum doesn’t really take that route with this film. Instead, it’s a fun and hilarious little ride.
The film is set up in a really unique way. Greenbaum interviews Lazenby one-on-one, and as Lazenby describes his life stories they’re acted out in reenactments by actors. Josh Lawson, who you might remember from House of Lies, plays George Lazenby in the film’s reenactments, and some familiar faces also show up in small appearances of people that came into George’s life.
Greenbaum writes and directs the film, but he doesn’t really go off of an actual screenplay with these reenactments. As he told me in his interview, he would talk with George, and he would use what George told him as storyboards to piece together the story of the film. Greenbaum could’ve made a very interesting film about Lazenby with just the documentary footage, but he ends up making something really unique and special with Becoming Bond. The stories that Lazenby feel almost too good to be true at times, and the reenactments of these stories are wildly funny and entertaining to sit through. Josh Greenbaum is a terrific comedy director, and other than his terrific documentary The Short Game, is a veteran of television with having directed several episodes of New Girl in the past. Greenbaum’s experience in directing comedy lends a lot to this very funny tale.
The heart of it all can be found in George’s past, and his humble beginnings in Australia. From his first love Belinda all the way to today, there’s heart in this story that wouldn’t have been previously thought. Lazenby is a man who got thrown into a world that he had yearned for all his life, and when he finally got there he wasn’t quite sure how to handle all of it. From an outsider perspective, that lifestyle seemed glamorous and fun, but once you get in there and start to experience it for yourself, it’s nice at first, but it can become exhausting. But Lazenby still looks back fondly on those early days and his days as Bond, both in real life and in this movie. There’s little to no bitterness over the experience of George, which makes the experience all the worthwhile.
I really had a lot of fun with Becoming Bond, and it’s one of my favorite films from this year’s SXSW. If you can’t catch any of the screenings during the festival, don’t worry. Hulu acquired the distribution rights to the film and will be releasing it on their platform on May 20th. As a huge Bond fan, I ate this film up and fell in love with the whole thing, but I don’t think you have to be familiar with this story or a fan of Bond to admire Josh Greenbaum’s heartfelt and sincere look at the life and times of George Lazenby.