That Click

In Films by Samuel Love

Douglas Kirkland is a name you probably don’t know, but you will almost certainly know his work. A veteran Hollywood photographer who has been working since the 1950s, Kirkland was behind the lens of some of the most iconic portraits of stars like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. But until now, nobody has turned the camera on him.

Luca Severi’s puff-piece documentary covers Kirkland’s life in chronological order, from his first assignments for Look Magazine at age 24 to his present work for Vanity Fair. As many of his subjects – Andy Garcia, Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning among them – line up to praise him and his ‘genius’ status, it becomes increasingly clear that this somewhat glib documentary isn’t going to probe even remotely beneath the service of the celebrated photographer. Those looking for technical information about his preferred equipment or shooting style will also go wanting, as the film offers little more than the usual spiritual explanation of how Kirkland can see his subject’s souls as he shoots them and bring out their character. It’s all rather pretentious without being informative, and gushy without feeling genuine. 

This film seems more targeted at film fans, who will surely delight at the anecdotes surrounding Kirkland’s sessions with iconic superstars and see many of his acclaimed portraits throughout the film’s 90-minute runtime. And there’s certainly a charm in the interviews with Kirkland now; spry and sprightly in his mid-80s and a wonderful raconteur, he could read out a weather report and it would sound enthralling. He’s even featured throughout the end credits, singling out each member of the immediate crew, which is a sweet concept – even the sound guy gets a shout out.

But this larger-than-life character with one of the most accomplished careers in show business deserves something far deeper than this. His life and work could fill a documentary mini-series, so to rush through it over 90 minutes without any real analysis or discussion seems like a waste. The documentary even gives time to Paris Hilton to tell us how wonderful Kirkland is, when they could’ve used that time to tell us something that we couldn’t learn from his Wikipedia page. And therein lies the biggest fault with That Click – there is simply nothing here that a quick Google search won’t tell you, and in far more detail.

While there are some charming anecdotes littered throughout and you certainly can’t fault Kirkland’s staggering body of work, That Click is unfortunately a rather empty and gushy love letter that doesn’t do justice to the acclaimed photographer.