Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Directed by: Bart Layton
Starring: Adam O'Brian, Anna Ruben, and Cathy Dresbach
Synopsis: After three years missing, a Texas boy comes back to his family. But why does a boy who was blond with blue eyes now speaks with a thick foreign accent and has brown eyes?

Javi here. If the line to get in was any indication, THE IMPOSTER has been one of the more buzzed about movies in this festival. The story was compelling, the editing was unique, and it leaves you lingering with a a few questions even if the main story was finished.

One of the aspects of the movie that really captivated me were the subjects, for the fear of spoiling I will not go into their specifics, but they are all interesting in their own way. You see the way that they speak about themselves and how others react. Some are completely oblivious, and others are very self-aware of their issues. As they narrate their own perspectives of the kidnapping and subsequent discovery of Nicholas Barclay, you see that there are some very deep issues with all of them, with the role of the "victims" constantly shifting until the end.

The movie is told in documentary format with the obligatory talking head segments, but where it gets interesting was the way that a lot of the back stories are conveyed via dramatized segments. It's those segments of the movie that I found really interesting because they are so well shot and have really high production values. Some critics could state that in some ways this felt like a long-form, Robert Stack-less, UNSOLVED MYSTERIES episode. That would not be necessarily false, but it would miss a lot of the point. The actors that were hired to play the dramatized counterparts of the people involved were pretty spot.

The cinematography should be commended as well. It is very sharp, and there was a very clear visual distinction between the talking head segments and the dramatized scenes. Going along those lines, even though, I will have some issues with the editing later, I have to say that this was one of the strongest parts of the movie. The transitions between the narrated and the dramatized segments occured very seamlessly. The editors used a technique where they transitioned by having an actor speak a line of dialogue which would then be overlapping and in sync with what the real person would be saying and go to a narrated scene. I found this effect to be really interesting, and it gave a lot of the scenes a very eerie tone as well as more weight to the "validity" of the scenes.

However, I did have a few problems with the movie. If you read the synopsis, you see that there is a lot of of very serious stuff going. A child has gone missing. Someone is pretending to be him. This is heart wrenching and very serious stuff. Then explain to me why the hell the audience was laughing as hard as they were? This could easily be a reaction to the way that the movie was cut and edited. This, of course, brings up the question, if my audience weren't completely deplorable people, then why the hell why was this movie cut and edited to have such a strong comedic effect? Last time I checked, missing children and (fake) stories of child slavery and abuse were not ripe for the lolz. Even if this didn't bother me on a personal level, it would be proper to say that this sort of editing gives the movie a very uneven tone.

Finally, the movie ends up having a few pacing issues. There are a lot of set up and explanations regarding the events that transpire in the film. However, once that is done, the conflict's resolution happens. A plot point that is developed very thinly along with a new "character" and then the movie ends. For all of the groundwork that was done for the movie's story and the emotional investment you should have, I felt that the conclusion an was a little off. I'm glad that the ending in a way was ambiguous with a very effective and haunting last shot. It certainly gives something people to talk about.

I found THE IMPOSTER a really compelling dissection of grief and more importantly, the things that it can make you do once a person feels any relief from it. As far as documentaries go, this is one of the better ones I have seen during the festival.

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