Review by Bradley Smith
In Chasing Perfect, Frank Stephenson discusses his life, his career, his inspirations, his family, the auto industry, and his view of the need for reaching for perfection. It is a beautiful, well made documentary that can appeal to anyone whether or not they are an auto enthusiast. There is a morale presented, which is hinted at in the title, that can apply to any ambition; the strive for perfection is what pushes humanity forward, even though “perfection” is nearly unattainable.
For those like me who are not too into cars, Frank Stephenson is one of the most influential car designers in the world. His designs range from high-concept cars like the McLaren P1 to everyday vehicles like the new Mini. I am a fan of Amazon’s The Grand Tour (as well as Top Gear prior to that), so I have probably heard of some of the cars that Frank designed, though I am not so into them that I would be able to pick them out of a lineup. That being said, I enjoyed listening to Frank speak fondly about his creations and his life. From his early days racing motorcycles to currently designing a potential new mode of transportation, Frank is an engaging storyteller and it is clear that he has passion for everything he has set his mind upon.
Like any good documentary, Frank is not the only person speaking. This is Helena Coan’s debut feature and she did a fantastic job creating a charming portrait of Frank’s life. They also visit others to discuss Frank’s life or designs or cars in general.
Among the guests are Jay Leno and his famous garage full of various types of cars; at least one of which was Frank’s design. Jay gets to show off some of his other cars to Frank’s, and this audience member’s, delight, even starting up a few. Plus, he passes on a story or two about his collection and cracks a few jokes.
The stories presented range from inspirational to humorous to tragic. The story about Frank’s dad wanting everything to be perfect, including his own heart almost detracts from the “chasing perfection” narrative since it highlights the most severe of consequences. But the rest of the movie tries to focus on the positive results. Frank is very relatable; I especially related to his discussion about his experience with impostor syndrome.
Anyway, overall I liked this film and might even buy a copy myself. It is not perfect, but it tries and that is kind of the point.