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Austin Film Festival Review: Good Fortune

Score: B+

Directors: Joshua Tickell, Rebecca Harrell Tickell

Cast: John Paul DeJoria, Dan Aykroyd, Robert Cromeans

Running Time: 86 min

Rated: NR

“Success unshared is failure.”

So goes the motto of John Paul DeJoria, entrepreneur, philanthropist and co-founder of the Paul Mitchell line of hair products and The Patrón Spirits Company. Good Fortune takes a look at the man behind the money in a fascinating, if not selective, narrative.

As a long-time attendee of Austin Film Festival, I’d always wondered who John Paul and Eloise DeJoria were, often the only two individual names to be featured in AFF’s roll call of sponsors before each screening. It makes sense then that Good Fortune would screen at this year’s AFF with a premiere at the historic Paramount Theatre.

The good thing about Good Fortune is that it never takes itself too seriously. Narrator Dan Aykroyd has a tone that invokes old Westerns, spinning tales of legendary men with humor and wit. Even when going over the “rags” part of DeJoria’s “rags to riches” story, his hardships are never treated as melodramatic because it’s clear there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. DeJoria certainly has lived an interesting life, growing up poor in Los Angeles, homeless a few times in his life, joining a motorcycle gang for a few years, and multiple marriages that almost mirror his multiple business successes and failures. DeJoria discusses it all without coming off as self-obsessed. It’s certainly a fine line to walk.

The film spends a great deal of time on his philanthropic efforts. DeJoria not only walks the walk, but talks the talk with his famed motto. He funds and accompanies boats that try to stop whale poaching off the shores of Japan and regularly visits Chrysalis in Los Angeles, his non-profit that provides homeless and low-income individuals with resources to find employment. He signed Warren Buffet and Bill Gates’s Giving Pledge in 2011, a promise to give more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes during their lifetime or in their will.

That said, these biopic documentaries can’t be taken at face value. Clearly, a narrative is needed for a feature-length film and not all areas of DeJoria’s life can be addressed. Good Fortune focuses on his rags to riches story and his philanthropy – two incredibly powerful and noble narratives that don’t necessarily give us the full picture of this self-made billionaire. These omissions are understandable since the film itself is sanctioned by DeJoria. He made sure to clarify in the Q&A after the screening that he would normally never agree to a film about himself but was persuaded by the directors, Joshua and Rebecca Tickell.

As much as we’re getting a very selective view of DeJoria, Good Fortune is a pleasant look at a man who no doubt overcame obstacles and dedicates his life to giving back to those less fortunate. If Good Fortune helps inspire others to be as giving as DeJoria, then it’s selective narrative can be forgiven.

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About Katie Anaya

Katie Anaya

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