There’s nothing “wrong” with the strategy behind Ethan Hawke’s The Last Movie Stars, the six-part HBO Max series that examines the lives of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

It’s actually half-inspired in a workmanlike way. Shot during the pandemic dog days, the (roughly) 360-minute epic leans upon 20-plus actor pallies (George Clooney, Laura Linney, Sam Rockwell, Vincent D’Onofrio, et. al.) to voice scores of transcribed interviews conducted by Newman collaborator Stuart Stern along with 20-plus original interviews. (All of it Zoomed.) The doc reps a livelier, more inquisitive approach to this kind of worshipful tribute, and Hawke certainly deserves points for orchestrating.

But it wore me down. I felt the sand particles of my soul starting to drain out of the hourglass. Hawke’s opus gradually made me feel as I was carrying it rather than vice versa. Too much gush, not enough meat. It was sometime during the third episode that I started to say “man, I’m getting a little sick of all these performative Zoom players expressing so much damnable delight and fascination for this rightly admired power couple…can we wrap this up, please?”

Three hours would’ve sufficed; I might have even been okay with four. But not six.

I’m certainly indebted to Hawke for educating me about Newman-Woodward in various ways that I wasn’t expecting. Newman’s description of himself as an “emotional Republican” is not something I’m likely to forget. We all knew he was a steady beer drinker but somehow the term “problem alcoholic” had never sunk in. The doc afforded me a fuller understanding of Newman’s journey, of how much better he was when he got older and stopped trying so hard. And it made me want to watch Hud for the 13th or 14th time.

I’d like to believe that my own Hud-like traits have been schooled and diminished over the years, and perhaps even locked in a box. But they haven’t been erased, and I strongly suspect that traces of same existed within Newman himself. Nobody’s perfect; some people behave badly from time to time. Hawke’s doc implies this but mostly slip-slides away.