The Impostors (1998)
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Early in this movie our actor heros take turns mugging an emotion on command. I think this moment is the key to understanding the entire film. Almost every scene is painted by facial expressions and body language. The editing lingers to give us time to enjoy each portrait, then cuts a bit further along in the story than we are used to. This unfamiliar timing gives the strong cast a chance to act rather than react. The story is about actors, but the movie is a tribute to comedic acting.
If you want a formula comedy, rent something else. If you want movie that is funny, warm, original, and brilliant and are willing to give its different pace a chance, put this film at the top of your list and plan to view it twice.
A near perfect film. Stanley Tucci and Oliver Platt make a great duo in this comedy about two starving actors.
Desperate for food, they decide to con a pastry chef out of some of his pastry. As previously planned, Platt comes to the pastry chef's "rescue", but instead of getting pastry, he gets two tickets to see hack stage actor, Jeremy Burtom excellently played by Alfred Molina.
Through a series of incidents, Burtom threatens the boys with imprisonment if he catches them, The two end up accidentally stowing away on a cruise ship and that's when everything gets complicated.
An excellent cast was assembled for this superbly funny script. Watch for Campbell Scott, son of George C. Scott. His portrayal of a Nazi-like ship steward is hilarious.
My hat goes off to Stanley Tucci for doing an excellent job writing and directing this film! I only hope more people can see this jewel.
I thought the opening title gags were brilliant, especially Oliver Platt. I loved Billy Connolly as a camp tennis player and Allison Janney as a gangster's moll. I also thought Alfred Molina, Tony Shalhoub, Campbell Scott, Steve Buscemi and Matt McGrath were brilliant as well. The pastry shop scene and Tucci crying poor were also outstanding highlights.
My only slight criticism with this film is that the pacing seemed a tiny bit slow at times, but otherwise this is an exceptional storyline. This is definitely the sort of movie I'd like to see a lot more of. It also proves that they CAN make 'em like they used to.
But the acting isn't just the reason that this film is one of my personal favorites, it's also because of the superb script. It's brilliantly paced and full of laughter and intrigue.
Tucci's film deserves a look, but really, watch the film as a comedy, don't take it too seriously.
And I loved it. It's really not like any movie I've ever seen. I'm not really a connoisseur of Laurel and Hardy or anyone like that--I'm just your average college kid, I guess. I don't like most American comedy, though, because it's a little too dependent on violence and switching one's brain off. But this movie was so different and so funny! It was silly, sure, but it was smart and really amusing. I love Steve Buscemi in everything he's in, and he was just TOO funny here. I was rolling in the floor.
And Campbell Scott was just great, I loved how he kept popping up at the most inopportune times. But my favorite part, I think, was that little bit with the Hamlet play. I've seen productions like this and known actors like that and it was just PERFECT! The archetypical actor who can't fit his inflated head through the backstage door. It was truly hilarious all the way through, and I don't know anything about what it could be based on. I just liked it a lot. But it's not your average American comedy, and it might inspire a love/hate response in many viewers. I think it's probably an acquired taste.
Starring: Oliver Platt, Stanley Tucci, Lili Taylor, Steve Buscemi, Campbell Scott, Isabella Rossellini, Billy Connolly, and Hope Davis Written and directed by: Stanley Tucci Running Time: 102 minutes Rated R (for some language and sex-related material) By Blake French:
Certain movies are just not for all audiences. Stanley Tucci directs the new comedy, who is one of the creators of the 1995 drama-comedy "Big Night." The film is certainly not for everyone. It will satisfy fans of screwball comedies, and perhaps fans of someone in the cast-they may enjoy it. However, I only liked "The Impostors" because of the laughs it brought along with its well-written script. It is not your typical comedy. Now, I'm not saying that this movie is great. I am saying, however, that this movie satisfied me to the point of a recommendation.
"The Impostors" opens with a hilarious sequence in which the two main stars, Tucci and Platt, play two out of work actors, Maurice & Arthur, who play on a silent stage who have serious and comical problems with women, coffee, and each other.
Maurice & Arthur get in to trouble and escape from the police in a boarding box. However, while they were sleeping, the box was loaded onto a ship carrying an assortment of bizarre passengers that provoke even more laughs. They include a Nazi steward with tight lips, Lily, the social director who helps Maurice & Arthur, a First Mate who is a mad bomber, a tennis pro who is aggressively gay, an ex-queen in despair entertainer who wants to commit suicide, and many more.
The films casting was more to my liking than any other movie I have seen this year. The characters fit the actors so perfectly and realistically that I could have been fooled that these people were actually victims of a secret tapping of "Candid Camera." Each of them bring a story to themselves outside the plot. No one character is at the mercy of the script.
As for the script itself, it kept its cool even as it organized its own extremely complicated chaos. There are many laughs that evolve from hyperactive activity from the assortment of characters because there is such a variety, everything feels so fresh in this movie.
"The Impostors" is an opinion based movie. Certain film's don't carry massive plot holes, obvious flaws, or any other structural or character problem, but they don't necessarily bring anything overwhelmingly powerful to the big screen either. "The Impostors" is this kind of comedy. Whether you find it to your liking or not will totally depend on your taste in comic material in film. I was amused by the picture. Many filmgoers will differ on my opinion though. The individual I screened the film longed for its conclusion and declared this was the worst movie she had seen in her life. I recommend the film, but take into account your personal feelings on my review before you make a judgment call. "The Impostors" might make you laugh uncontrollably, but it also may cause you to turn your head in pitiful despise.
Brought to you by Fox Searchlight Pictures.
I loved it. The film it most reminded me of, despite its echoes of Beckett, silent comedy and 'Bullets over Broadway', was 'Topsy-Turvy'. There is the same fruity dialogue and opportunity for ostentatious thesping. The theatrical milieu allows for a suspension of realism - like Leigh's film, there is no attempt to faithfully recreate the period; rather 'The Impostors' is like a play of the period, filmed against a flat background with appropriate signifiers (clothes, music etc.). This idea that the narrative is not 'real' (ie as a narrative) is suggested by the closing revelation of the movie set, removing a plot full of people playing other people to another level.
Of course, this kind of closing self-reflexivity, this shattering of illusions, is pure Fellini, and the ship setting reminds us surely of 'Ship Of Fools', that ironically melancholy portrait of a doomed society. 'Impostors', despite the final burst of the carnivalesque, is too controlled to be a Felliniesque extravaganza; too in thrall to the idea of plot, and the way plot reflects the metaphysics of action; but there is a variety of character; an impulse towards mocking melodrama and the picaresque; a feel for the grotesque and chaotic, a sheer love of role-playing and transformation, that Il Maestro would possibly have enjoyed.
It would be reading too much into 'Impostors' to see the ship and its passengers, travelling from Prohibition America to Paris as in any way allegorical - the characters and situations are pure stage types - the impoverished gold-digging mother, the suicidal divorcee, the deposed Ruritanian queen, the Teutonic manager, the kamikaze revolutionary, the lovesick captain. I don't think they are used to explore a particular political viewpoint or historical interpretation - rather, they allow for a wide-ranging analysis of the conflict between acting and role.
The film's impulse is to mock even it's own plot, so that resolution is hardly a morally satisfactory dividing of the spoils. The impostors are shown to reveal the wider imposture going on in all levels of society - acting can both expose the fraudulence and help the miserable and betrayed. They move from being outsiders desperate for recognition from society to critics and exposers of society - typically, they save it and are absorbed by it. The film begins with them disrupting reality with their false cafe melodramatics; it ends with them saving marriages, foiling revolution. Acting, once it's recognised as acting, is neutered.
There are three great pleasures in 'Impostors'. First is the acting. Stanley Tucci and Oliver Platt are an adorable couple, part Vladimir and Estragon, part Laurel and Hardy (and Beckett was profoundly influenced by silent comedy) - their attempts at acting only further revealing their characters. The post-theory sexualising of the likes of Laurel and Hardy is intimated here - the impostors share a bedroom; they are constantly confronted with aggressive male sexuality; they are never considered as a heterosexual threat - but, appropriately to the period, this is never brought to the surface.
They have some great set-pieces, particularly in the first half (the cakeshop; the denunciation of Jeremy in the pub); their wordy dialogue is deliciously appropriate; their mixture of deadpan and ham a treat. Not all of the cameos come off, but Campbell Scott's absurd manager and Alfred Molina's blustery bad actor are a hoot (is the Hamlet he plays a defining spirit of the film, the anguish over whether to act and be appropriated or interpret and remain free (and hungry)?).
Secondly, the filming. Although most of 'Impostors' is pure farce (and there is far too little of THAT in the cinema nowadays), there is nothing stagy about it. The prologue is shot as delightful silent slapstick, and the smooth shooting is often broken by moments of disruptive handheld immediacy which provide some lovely epiphanies. The repetition of key scenes and moments (eg all the characters staring into the round, porthole -like mirrors) are expertly done.
Best of all is the insanely inventive score, beautifully appropriate to the period, a pastiche of salon, jazz and tango that is witty but also emotionally revealing, creating a real sense of romance and nostalgia, while silly post-modern things are going on on screen.
Honestly rent some Laurel and Hardy features or two reelers..you'll be glad you did.
Being a devoted Marx Brothers fan, I truly wanted to like the film. It's got a good director and a splendid cast, but these were not enough to save it. It needs MUCH tighter direction and editing - the timing seems to be off in nearly all the gags and scenes go on too long. I also doubted the wisdom of including all the profanity ... it didn't fit. From the first scene at the park cafe, the rhythm was just off, off off. The actors are clearly doing their best (Campbell Scott was great), but it's not enough.
Spend your money on "Night At the Opera" instead. Perhaps someday someone will succeed in revitalizing the screwball comedy, but this, unfortunately, isn't it. Sorry, Stanley.
Stanley Tucci tried (and tried a little too hard) at recreating the era of 1930s/40s slapstick comedy, about a couple of unemployed losers who want to become actors eventhough no one will hire them. They're accused of assaulting a snobbish Ham actor, and after finding a place to hide they discover they're actually on a ship with him. At this point the blandness comes to a halt, and resumes to inanity and effortless skits. It was as if Tucci saw a segment of "The Little Rascals" or "The Three Stooges" one day and said, "Hey, people know who I am, let me make my vision of this and I'm sure everyone will love it for what it is, regardless of how it will turn out."
I guess I'm not everyone.
Even the Woody Allen cameo wasn't convincing. "The Impostors" is not a good movie.
Arthur and Maurice's presence on the ship is soon found out, and with the help of sympathetic cruise director Lily, played by Lili Taylor, disguise themselves as stewards and manage through luck and mayhem to stay just ahead of Bertrom, Meistrich, the severely Prussian head steward, hysterically played by Campbell Scott, and the gentle, mild mannered Marco who is charged by Meistrich to apprehend the stowaways. In the process, the duo learn that the first mate, played by Tony Shalhoub, is in fact a terrorist cum freedom fighter of an obscure and unnamed country who plans to blow up the ship, and that an American couple, Johnny and Maxine, thieves masquerading as Parisians, are planning to seduce and murder a wealthy widow and an Arab Sheik, respectively.
Set sometime in the 1930's, the tone feels decidedly European, with European sensibilities. There is elegance here, within the confines of a limited budget. There are tuxes and flower arrangements galore, but this ain't Titanic. That said, the production design pokes fun at itself in that the bulk of the movie is shot on a static ship-board set that does not resort to the use of fancy lighting, gimbals, or even water, and in place of a green screen uses a cheap, "to hell with 'em if they can't take a joke" painted backdrop.
The pace is quick and frenetic, energized by the extensive use of hand-held camera work. The acting, for its part, is poured not into characters per se but joyfully and unabashedly into cartoon-like characterizations. And this is not the hallmark of bad acting as some would suggest, for the writing allows the actors free rein to deliver in places great monologues, in the way jazz artists are given, each in turn, an opportunity to display their virtuosity in their solo performances. I would suggest that it takes great skill to flesh out such vivid and flamboyant personages.
This movie would best be described as a gag movie, in that it has the appearance of a string of set-piece gags that are carefully set up and sprung on the viewer. And, if the art of humor lies with the delivery, than the delivery here is top-notch, with great lines joyfully delivered by over-the-top characters. It should be noted that in the hands of lesser talent, lines such as: Meistrich: "The danger of the chase has made you perspire. It has made me also moist." Maxine: "What are we gonna do with all that cash, Johnny?" Johnny: "What do you think, baby?" Maxine: "Take it on the lam and scram to some far-off land and lead a life of bliss, Johnny?" Would fall flat and strike the ear as crushingly hokey. It takes real chops to make material like this work.
And the delivery isn't made up just in the acting. The camera has an active part in selling the lines, also. To illustrate, Marco and Lili are romantically involved, but Meistrich, who is infatuated with Lili, repeatedly tries to insinuate himself in every private moment the couple manages together, the camera drawing away abruptly and without warning at such times from an intimate two shot to a three shot, revealing the intruder Meistrich. The music helps establish the mindset in the viewer also, alternating between delightfully continental Tango music to breezy and raucous Dixieland.
And though this is most assuredly a gag movie, the bits are not just strewn helter-skelter against a vapid storyline. All the jokes become glittering sequins on a lovingly woven and coherent fabric of plot. It hangs together very nicely, thank you. However, it should be noted that not all the gags work, however. The sheer volume of them and the variability of taste in movie-goers would decree that at least some fall flat, and for this reviewer that is the case, but many more are delightful, and more than make up for the klunkers.
So why didn't this do better at the box office? And why does it have a ranking of 6.0 on IMDb? It isn't for the craftsmanship; technically, the directing is first-rate, the writing also, the acting top-notch, and the soundtrack is superb. So the problem is that of taste. For any one individual, that person's taste will decree that they are either going to like this movie or they won't. I know folks who, to their credit, have tried to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail several times and still can't see the funny in it that tickles others.
For myself, this one is a gentle, joyful froth that does not concern itself with heady examinations of the human condition or the subconscious. Rather, it is cinematic playfulness, perfect for distracting me at least temporarily from the burden of seriousness that life imposes.
That scene pretty much sums up this movie: Great performers get on screen and you expect a fast-paced, fun time, but instead get a slow, slow movie.
Who to blame? I'm going to have to go with Stanley Tucci. I like Stanley Tucci, but I don't think he's very funny. He plays half of the the film's title duo, and he's teamed with the hilarious Oliver Platt. Platt is great, likable, and funny. Tucci is not. His character has no sense of comic timing, and apparently neither does Tucci, as he wrote and directed this movie. It doesn't have the right pace for a comedy- it takes about half an hour to get them to the boat and have the plot start, and the things that happen before that aren't very interesting (save for a hilarious cameo by the great Woody Allen).
Once they get to the boat and the story begins, the movie picks up considerably. The cast in this movie is fantastic- Steve Buscemi, Billy Connoly, Tony Shalhoub, Lili Taylor, Alfred Molina, Dana Ivey, Hope Davis, Allison Janey, Isabella Rosselini- even the usually stodgy Campbell Scott is great in this. They are all fun to watch, even if they're not doing anything terribly exciting.
I want to like this movie, I do, but it's like watching an improvisational comedy class that goes nowhere. All the scenes that would be great in a "Deleted scenes" section on a DVD were never deleted. It's best when it's madcap and crazy like a Marx Brothers movie, but it's just not funny enough to be recommended.
The cast works hard, the film doesn't look bad (although some of the art direction seems a little threadbare), the music score was obviously a bow to Woody Allen, who makes a brief uncredited appearance, but, oh my! how things went downhill fast.
I love good slapstick, lots of slamming doors and such, but this effort just wasn't up to its aspirations. Methinks that Stanley Tucci should have asked for some help with the script and let someone else, with a surer touch, take over the directorial reins.
For me, a disappointment, though not without a few smiles here and there, as it bungled its way to that silly conclusion, with the entire cast doing a jig, exiting the set, past the film crew, on their way out onto the studio's street.
The Impostors both fails and succeeds in this way; some parts are as hilarious as they are meant to be, while other parts leave the audience shifting in their seats. The unfunny scenes seem to carry on and on, giving the viewer time notice just how silly the film really is. This turns out to be one of the movies biggest problems.
Other films of this nature combat this problem by firing the jokes off one after another, so that if one joke bombs there is another to take its place. The Impostors needed to utilize this technique more. This is not to say that the film was a dud. Many scenes and characters are very funny, but the bad ones tended to be very noticeable.
The Impostors revolves around Maurice and Arthur, two veteran actors in Depression-era New York, trying to earn a living through acting. Parts are scarce though, and the two spend their days honing their skills by acting out 'scenes' with made up characters on the unsuspecting public. After a wild chain of events, Maurice and Arthur end up as hunted stowaways on an ocean liner headed to Paris, where they become entangled in the lives of the other quirky passengers.
The Impostors has the feel of a silent movie; every gesture, facial expression, and action seems to be exaggerated for comedic effect. Many of the scenes would be funny even without the dialogue. Slapstick humour runs throughout the movie creating that silent movie feel. The Impostors plays out like Saturday Night Live sketches pieced together to form a plot. This method has funny results, but when one 'sketch' fails the whole movie suffers.
Maurice and Arthur are played wonderfully by Oliver Platt and Stanley Tucci, respectively. The two characters weasel their way into the hearts of the viewers from the very beginning, just as characters in a good buddy movie should. Platt and Tucci's relationship is based on a Laurel and Hardy model, or for a modern reference, David Spade and Chris Farley. There are other great performances from characters on the ship. The Impostors has a good cast with Woody Allen, Steve Buscemi, Lili Taylor, and Isabella Rossellini in small, one dimensional roles. The funniest performance by far is Campbell Scott in his role as Meistrich, the German ship director. Meistrich comes complete with a monocle, a scar, a thick German accent and the attitude of World War Two General. When he is not hunting down the stowaways (Maurice and Arthur) his is trying to win over Lili Taylor's character, Lilly, with hilarious results.
The Impostors concludes with the cast suddenly dancing joyously off the set and around the studio where the filming took place. Obviously the actors enjoyed making the movie; the performances during the film and the dancing afterward attest to this. In fact, it seems they had more fun making the movie than audiences will have watching it. The Impostors makes a good effort, but in the end it isn't quite funny enough to pull the whole thing off.
Oliver Platt and Stanley Tucci (who wrote, directed, and produced) play two out of work actors in the 1930s. When they try to make a bakery owner angry enough to throw pastries at them, they fail, and instead are given two tickets to a bad actor's (Alfred Molina) Hamlet. Their insults of him in a bar are enough to send them hiding in a boarding box. They fall asleep and when they open the box, they find they're on a steamship headed for Paris.
As stowaways, the enlist the help of one of the workers (Lily Taylor) who has a pseudo-Nazi (Campbell Scott) chasing her around, so they have to be careful. Hiding in different rooms, they encounter two murderers (Allison Janey and Richard Jenkins), who plan on killing an old woman for her money. She is on the ship hoping her miserable daughter can find a man. Her daughter does - a suicidal singer named Happy Franks (Steve Buscemi).
There is also a Russian bomber (Tony Shalhoub) disguised as a first mate, a princess (Isabella Rosselini) who has been dethroned, a sheik, and a Greco- Roman wrestler. And let's not forget that Hamlet himself is in need of a sea voyage to recover from his bad performances.
Some real laugh-out-loud moments in this film, with delightful performances from Tucci, Platt, Shalhoub, and Buscemi especially.
If you like the old comedies, check this one out.