The Imposter

Oct 16, 2012

Deception is the game.

The Imposter
Grade: B
Director: Bart Layton
Cast: Adam O’Brian, Frederic Bourdin
Rating: R
Runtime: 135 min.
by John DeSando

In 1994 a 13-year-old San Antonio boy, Nick Gibson, vanished, setting off a chain of events to rival the most convoluted Hollywood thriller. The Imposter chronicles in re-enacted dramatic scenes, voiceover, and archival footage the strange re-emergence of the boy, the controversy surrounding his initial disappearance and his return, and the surprising theories that slowly emerge.

While the family readily accepts this young man, really 23-year-old Frederic Bourdin, found in Spain as their significantly-changed family member, a private detective notices a physical difference and a doctor determines the improbability of losing his American accent, the story juices up (after a slow first hour of set up) with some startling theories centering on the family’s uncritical acceptance of this long-lost child. In fact most of the principals appear to be fabricating, making discovery of truth a challenge but always a delicious imitation of  real life’s deceptions.

Hey, the film is not called “The Imposter” for nothing.

At times, the documentary seems like a found footage Blair Witch, at others a B film with artsy angles and moody lighting wishing to snag national attention.  Whatever, the actors are sufficiently like trailer-trash Texans to gives us the feeling of authenticity.  Disappointingly the film lacks depth when it tries to deconstruct the protagonist’s longing for familial love that leads him from Spain to Texas.

Some fiction films have challenged viewers with this imposter motif, most notably Six Degrees of Separation and better, The Return of Martin Guerre, in which a man returns from war a significantly changed man. Perhaps there can be no full understanding of misfits, who can, as this film attests, be fun to watch as long as they doesn’t invade your family.  Therefore, I have found a theme: Strangers bring change, sometimes profound sometimes banal but usually never dull.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at
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