Laurie, neither fully host nor interview subject, jumps back and forth between the two roles to awkward effect. Certain sequences—like Laurie in tight jeans, leaning on muscle cars with flinty gaze—seem to promote the imitation of McQueen rather than encourage careful reflection on his life. It’s a shame, because the glimpses we get of the real McQueen are enough to make us want more.
The most compelling parts of the film are recordings where McQueen himself appears to be trying to dispel his title as “The King of Cool” and talks quietly and humbly about the pain that led him to Christ.
There’s an echo of regret over sins this documentary fails to delve into but that have been widely reported elsewhere—his serial philandering and spousal abuse that once included pointing a gun at his wife’s head. By glossing over McQueen’s failures, the film undercuts the power of his conversion.
Interviews with believers who witnessed to McQueen—his stunt driver, his flight instructor, his pastor—are also frustratingly superficial. McQueen’s pastor tells us the actor had many questions about Christianity, but we don’t learn what they were. Traditional milestones on the path of following Jesus go unaddressed: Was McQueen baptized? If so—when, where? If not, why?
In a recent story for FoxNews.com, Laurie wrote of interviewing McQueen’s son for his biography. Laurie recounts Chad McQueen telling him, “I think Dad was finding his way to go to the next place. I remember, he would wake me up at seven in the morning to go to church, which never happened before he got ill.”
This story, not mentioned in the film, is exactly the kind of detail Steve McQueen: An American Icon needed.