Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Forger (2014)

Year 8, Day 230 - 8/17/16 - Movie #2,424

BEFORE: The last two films were last-minute additions, a necessary move in order to get to my review of "X-Men: Apocalypse" as soon as possible.  But adding films this late in the game, when I'm trying my darnedest to reduce the size of the watchlist before the end of the year, is a little bit like trying to put out a fire by dousing it with gasoline.  Or maybe it's like when you're standing on a railroad trestle in the middle of a canyon (and I don't know why you would do that, but work with me, here) and when you realize there's a train coming over the tracks, and you're closer to safety if you run in the direction of the train, rather than away from it.  It's your best chance of survival, but you'd have to go against your brain's rational inclination to run away.  Yeah, sure, it's like that - I'm adding films in order to reduce the list faster.

Tye Sheridan carries over from "Joe", once again playing a character with an ex-con as a father figure.

THE PLOT: A thief works with his father and son to forge a painting by Monet and steal the original.

AFTER: I'm back on the topic of museum heists (last seen in "Hudson Hawk") and the creation of art (last seen in "Artists and Models"), but let's not forget to mention films like "Frida" and from last year, "Tim's Vermeer", "My Kid Could Paint That", and "Banksy Does New York", "Lust for Life" and "Trance" and "Entrapment".  I'm going to have a devil of a time trying to sort out all these recurring themes at the end of 2016's regulation play.

Now, I realize that things take time, and a movie doesn't have the time to show us all the details of every little thing happening, but we're talking about forging a MONET painting here.  The forger himself says that this will be a long, complicated process, not just the painting but also he will need to "get inside Monet's head".  The second part is accomplished just by Travolta's character staring at an image of the painting in a book for a few seconds (apparently getting inside Monet's head was easier than he thought it would be) and the application of paint on canvas is accomplished in (off-screen time) about half a day, which translates to (on-screen time) just a few minutes.  Which leaves him enough time to compose a sonata in the style of Mozart and write a novel in the style of Hemingway, just for good measure.  

This solves a filmmaking problem that was caused by the juggling of two concurrent storylines - Raymond's attempts to satisfy his sick son's bucket-list wishes, and the creation and theft of the Monet from the Museum of Fine Arts.  Oh, sure, the two storylines do eventually dovetail, but not until later on.  And by taking the time to first track down an appropriately sized and aged canvas (in case, you know, they carbon date the thing) and then to fulfill his son's wishes, that leaves little time to paint the fake Monet.  So, zip zip zip, thanks to the wonders of editing, it's done in an evening.  

Wait wait WAIT, though.  Seriously?  A Monet, or a passable resemblance, painted in just a few HOURS?  No, no, no. Shenanigans to the utmost power.  The most prolific and well-known forger, Mark Landis, donated hundreds of forged paintings to various museums, but this was over the course of decades.  I'm looking up another forger now, John Myatt, who appears in an online video with a fake Monet behind him - so, clearly, this is possible, just not within the time-frame allotted for it to be done by this film.  In two weeks I'll allow that the appropriate canvas could be found, perhaps all of the chemicals necessary to mix the paints according to the formulas of the 1800's, but to physically apply all that paint to the canvas?  No freakin' way.  I'll bet this takes weeks, if not months, in the real world.  

This also raises this question - if the forger was so good that he could paint something that passes for a real Monet, why not just sell the forgery to the interested collector?  And if the forger isn't that good, then what chance does he possibly have of fooling the museum staff?  

Now, to be fair, it's possible that this forged Monet was never meant to seriously fool anyone, there's even a reference to the crime boss saying "as soon as the museum staff takes a close look at the painting, you're done for".  So, perhaps the painting was only meant to fool everyone for a short time, while the real Monet was smuggled out of town.  But then this makes the ending a bit confusing - was the real painting really stolen, or did a switcheroo take place?  Or did a double-switcheroo take place, which would technically not even be a crime?  There's a lot that's left ambiguous in the final act, and there's no real plot breakdown on Wikipedia that will help clarify.  

It seems the filmmakers wanted to leave a lot up to the viewer's imagination, but that constitutes a blatant cop-out to me.   Still, accents aside, it's great to see a film set in Boston, and one where the Museum of Fine Arts plays itself.  It's also good to know that the Boston police won't bring in a former felon despite FIVE blatant parole violations (because I guess they're waiting for that magic sixth one) and that museum security guards won't try too hard to catch people leaving the premises with a large canvas-shaped square under their arms.  Because, you know, chasing people seems like a lot of hard work.  
Also starring John Travolta (last seen in "The Thin Red Line"), Christopher Plummer (last seen in "Eyewitness"), Abigail Spencer (last seen in "This Is Where I Leave You"), Anson Mount (last seen in "Non-Stop"), Jennifer Ehle (last seen in "Robocop"), Travis Aaron Wade (last seen in "Jarhead"), Julio Oscar Mechoso (last seen in "Planet Terror"), Marcus Thomas, Owen Burke, Sean Malone. 

RATING: 4 out of 10 cups of caah-ffee

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