We all have dreams. Many will be crushed under the boot of reality. More will realise their dreams are simply not worth pursuing. I wonder when that will happen to me. It didn’t happen to Tucker, that man and his dreams were simply too big to fail. Or so it would seem throughout Tucker: The Man and His Dream, which riffs mightily and often on the Atomic Era formalities. That immediate post-war feel for life, where everything must be sleek and squeaky clean. America had bounced back from its Great Depression selling armaments and alcohol, and Preston Tucker was set on funding his dream of designing the car of the future. What that would look like at the time was simply anyone’s guess, but director Francis Ford Coppola and Jeff Bridges in the starring, titular role make for a good period piece pairing.
It has seeped deeply in its aesthetic. Spinning newsreels, that thick red and yellow font that introduced so many to the big brands of the future, it is all there. There is a degree of satire to it, as if Coppola is preparing a cheap shot at this decade, but that never comes. Thankfully, these moments of mockery feel more endearing and good-natured than anything spiteful or venomous. Tucker embodies much of the warmth and optimism of the era, that stark can-do attitude that loomed over the men of this generation is founded with tenacity and intrigue. He, like many other men at this time, had a conceivable, achievable dream. Had all the right components fell into place, then Tucker would be remembered as an innovator and a genius.
But it was simply not to be, and Tucker died in relative modern obscurity. Coppola fishes him out of this depth to tell a story worth remembering, for here he captures the nature of a tenacious man. His father had invested money in the stock of Tucker’s company, and there is a sense that such a relationship has had its effect on Coppola’s direction here. He is amicable and open to the history, and with a somewhat strong connection to the truth, he manages to effectively create a desirable story of the American dream and its impact on those who desired it. With Martin Landau’s exceptional supporting performance as Abe, Tucker has his yes-man and confidant. The two have a defiant on-screen chemistry with one another, their working relationship is layered and engaging. A money man funding the dreams of a likeable guy who thoroughly believes in his vision. Why wouldn’t he? It was a damn good idea.
He shot for the stars and was pulled down by reality. Tucker: The Man and His Dream is one of the rare, few American-dream films that works because of its likeability. Coppola’s inherent interest in Preston Tucker and that theme of the American Dream is admirable and makes for a compelling piece of biopic work. It is spotty in places, with a sheen befitting of the production line, but not of a passion project. Static stylings are infrequent, but stand out when they are shoehorned into a narrative that, without its shot-reverse-shot padding would be filled with gorgeous, low-hanging shots or panning beauty. Coppola and Tucker have clear similarities, for both of them are dreamers with good and honest intentions, unable to convince a wider audience of their talents. It is an issue Coppola would suffer from for the rest of his career.