Sunday, August 5, 2012

Craigslist Joe, The Imposter

Craigslist Joe
The Imposter

Joe Garner’s documentary “Craigslist Joe,” about the month the Angeleno spent “living off Craigslist” – traveling the country depending for food and shelter on the kindness of online strangers – is an oddly inchoate, at times unintelligible picture. The project itself never takes coherent shape: Must he merely survive? Must he go anywhere in particular? Must he accomplish anything? Honestly, it feels like an excuse for a privileged Hollywood kid (his buddy Zach Galifianakis produced) to make his first feature. Having arrived at a few self-evident epiphanies, Garner tries to give the movie heft toward the end, but only lurches into the maudlin. His movie’s a bit of an embarrassment.

Better – but not as good as it could be, given the source material – is Bart Layton’s “The Imposter,” about Frederic Bourdin, a 23-year-old Frenchman who in Spain in 1997 came to pose as Nicholas Barclay, a San Antonio child who had been missing for three years. The motivations and details of Bourdin’s ruse – which continued successfully for many months after reuniting with his supposed family – are fascinating enough. But when it is suggested that the family may have known they were harboring a fake – and had reasons of their own to play along – the story generates some real tension. Layton’s storytelling, though, needs tightening up. You wonder what Errol Morris could do with this case.

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