Review: ‘The Imposter’ a movie of deception
November 13, 2012
ASPEN – “The Imposter” is a story of fraud, misdirection, trickery and underlying motives. The documentary, by Bart Layton, tells of Frederic Bourdin, who, in 1997, stepped into the shoes of Nicholas Barclay, a 13-year-old who had disappeared three years earlier from a West Texas playground. Much of the film has Bourdin speaking directly to the camera with an almost chilling calm and calculation, confessing what he has done. It is a reasonably fascinating portrait of a con man, as Bourdin reveals his methods and how he exploits the family, using their hopes and expectations to manipulate them.
As disturbing as the revelations are, even more unnerving are the improbable things that Bourdin got away with in his tale. Bourdin was, at the time of the incident, 23; Nicholas Barclay was 16. Bourdin was born in France and spoke with a moderate accent; the only accent Nicholas would have had was from West Texas. Bourdin is dark with brown eyes; Nicholas was fair-skinned and blond with blue eyes. When Bourdin reunites with the family, he is covered – sunglasses, scarf and hat – and barely speaks to his mother or his sister.
Still, in a story told through re-enactments and talking-head interviews, Nicholas’ family takes him in.
“You believe what you want to believe. You believe because you want to believe,” is the explanation given for the family’s inability to see the painfully obvious. “The pain and fear and torture must have been excruciating enough to change him,” they reason.
Nicholas’ family takes him in, but the embrace they give him is less than whole-hearted.
Do they suspect, or at some level know, they are being duped? Or do they have some other reason for failing to recognize what an FBI agent recognizes right away (and really, what anyone with a pair of eyes would have concluded in a matter of minutes)? Surely they can’t be as unfathomably dull of senses as they often appear.
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Remember, “The Imposter” is a movie of deception. And while it is acceptably insightful, suspenseful, emotional and borderline fascinating, the viewer might feel as though he, too, has been blindfolded and led into a dark corner of dangling truths.