Character actor Michael Shannon has been nominated for his second Oscar for his role in the 2016 thriller Nocturnal Animals. "No Small Parts" takes a look at some of the other characters he's played in the past.
In London in the 1990s, a balding alcoholic with an unsteady American accent introduces himself in pubs and other social settings as Stanley Kubrick. Drinks and meals are suddenly on the house or paid for by an admiring person, usually a man, whose costumes, band, acting abilities or what have you, Stanley finds fascinating. He's actually Alan Conway (1934-1998): we watch him parlay a self-confident manner and a small amount of movie knowledge into a persona whom others immediately hang their dreams on. In exchange, Stanley asks only that they pay the bill. Will he be exposed? Do prosecution and prison await? Or has the National Health something else in mind? Written by
"Color Me Kubrick" will remind you a bit of Steven Spielberg's "Catch Me if You Can," in which Leonardo Di Caprio played a world-class con artist who duped people into believing he was a myriad of Very Important People whom he was really not. In "Colour Me Kubrick," the imposter is a man named Alan Conway who goes about London telling people he is the famed (and famously reclusive) director, Stanley Kubrick, in order to bum rides, free drinks and even sexual favors off of them. I guess it's appropriate that I just happened to catch this film on April 1st of all days.
Written by Andrew Frewin and directed by Brian W. Cook, "Color Me Kubrick" is clearly a godsend for its star, John Malkovich, who seems to be having the time of his movie-acting life doing this role. Malkovich tailors his demeanor and accent to fit the audience to whom he is playing, running the gamut from Capote-esquire fey for his gay "clients" (Conway is himself gay) to regular-guy macho for his straight targets. Yet, Malkovich never resorts to mere playacting to create his effect; by fully inhabiting the character, he keeps Conway from descending into a merely clownish figure and allows him to register as a fully fleshed-out human being.
Unfortunately, although the screenplay is frequently witty and even downright hilarious at times, the movie itself is never quite as good as Malkovich is in it. Despite its overall originality, there's an innate one-note quality to the setup that the movie cannot completely shake, so that, even at a mere eighty-six minutes, the conceit tends to wear a bit thin after awhile. The filmmakers somewhat make up for that weakness by also showing us the means by which Conway is eventually unmasked for all the world to see. There are also a number of surprisingly poignant moments in the film in which we are shown just how sad, lonely and pathetic an individual Conway really is. The most touching sequence comes when a movie-savvy young man in a bar uncovers Conway's ruse by trapping him with a trick Stanley Kramer question. As Conway slinks away from the scene humiliated and crestfallen, we can clearly see why Malkovich is one of the finest actors of his generation.
Beyond the Conway character, the film provides a gently satirical jab at our culture's overwhelming obsession with celebrity and our willingness to suspend critical judgment on a person or a scheme if we can discern a benefit for ourselves by doing so. For, indeed, virtually everyone who allows himself to be duped by this impersonator has starry-eyed dreams of one day making it big in either the entertainment business or the world of corporate financing. Conway has merely come up with a clever way of exploiting that obsession for his own personal benefit.
There's also something wryly humorous in the fact that, although Kubrick is universally recognized as being one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema, his face was so unfamiliar to both the general populace and even people in the movie industry that Conway was able to pull this ruse off for so long without getting caught. Can anyone imagine an individual trying that same stunt with Spielberg, Tarantino, Scorsese, etc.?
This is a slight but endearing comedy that is a must-see for John Malkovich fans.
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