Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Chameleon: Movie Review

A chameleon that isn't interesting or even hiding.

Le caméléon is a French delinquent turned con-artist who has passed himself off as numerous individuals, immersing himself into their lives and often evading the law. “The Chameleon” is a true-story movie version of one such instance. 12 year-old Nicolas disappeared from his family’s home in Louisiana. 4 years later he re-appears in France with a new accent and different look. Everybody is suspicious. Everybody except the family.2010 (2012 DVD Release)

Directed by: Jean-Paul Salomé

Screenplay by: Jean-Paul Salomé and Natalie Carter

Starring: Marc-André Grondin

But Nicolas’s family, a sister, mother and brother, are messed up drug-addicted criminals who seem to care about nothing except destroying everybody’s life and their own. Frédéric, the chameleon, fits in right at home. What’s difficult in this movie is that to make the story remain interesting, we need to understand the characters and why they’re covering up his identity or why they really believe he is their son and brother.

The sister, Kathy (Emilie de Ravin), is the easiest to understand. She’s only moderately messed up and isn’t shooting up heroin in every scene. She has a job so presumably she’s working to get herself a better life. When her long lost brother appears, lost and confused, she’s desperate to cling onto him hoping he can repair her broken family. She doesn’t want to believe that he’s not actually Nicolas.

I assumed that the mother (Ellen Barkin) and older brother (Nick Stahl) (supposedly played by the better actors) knew that he wasn’t who he said he was and I just couldn’t understand why they didn’t care. I didn’t realize that I was supposed to think that they did believe it was Nicolas. But I do understand why I didn’t care: Because they were shooting up heroin or drinking and driving in every scene so I just didn’t care about them.

The film is about the FBI agents who are trying to uncover the real identity of this found boy and why the family really believes it’s him. They also managed to turn what sounds like an interesting story into a very uninteresting movie. I kept thinking that the next scene would finally unveil something intriguing, but it never did.

The lead agent (Famke Janssen) at one point, for no apparent reason, relays a story about an earlier missing persons case she had worked. I found that story interesting and heart-wrenching, and that was just a verbal 1-minute retelling!

Apparently the real chameleon really can hide in plain sight making us believe what he wants us to. Unfortunately, that never came across here.


The Entitled (2011) - A crime drama of kidnappers and kidnappees with dynamic characters.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) - Martha, Marcy May, and Marlene all caught between truth, sanity and madness.