For those who like a little Kids with Cancer with their heist movies, John Travolta’s latest may be for you.
Travolta plays Raymond Cutter, a skilled art forger who, upon learning that his teenage son is terminally ill, begs his old crime boss to pull some strings to get him released from prison with only months left to go on his sentence. Of course, nothing’s free in these kinds of movies and his boos wants something in return: forge me a Monet and steal me the real one. Not an easy task under the best of times but even harder when you’re trying to bond with your estranged sick son and your estranged Dad at the same time.
I had a short conversation with Khalid from The Blazing Reel last week about Travolta’s many questionable choices but I was amazed when watching The Forger how bad things really have gotten for him. I’m amazed that this wasn’t a straight-to DVD release. As I implied in my opening paragraph, the pairing of the sick kid family drama and caper picture feels awkward and a little crass. Travolta, as well as Christopher Plummer and Tye Sheridan (who play Travolta’s father and son), really seem to be trying but the family drama really doesn’t give them much to work with. Cutter spends most of his bonding time with his son by taking him to see a prostitute and teaching him to forge paintings. The father-son story takes up so much of the film’s running time that little time is left over for the planning and execution of the heist itself, which is pretty much rushed through at the end.
Still, I can’t claim indifference. I found myself wanting things to work out for these three characters. Knowing that Travolta himself has lost a son made it impossible for me to write off the story as completely trite. Unfortunately, there’s just not a single new twist or idea to be found in this movie that tries to be two movies without delivering on either one.
This week’s Thursday Movie Picks theme is father-son relationships. The challenge is to list 3 movies that highlight the theme. I didn’t have to think too hard because this theme seems to be explored exuberantly in so many intriguing ways, so here are 3 off the top of my head:
Beginners – Matt has a strong and pervasive dislike of Ewan McGregor so I know he’s disapprove of this pick, but I can’t help it. After the death of his wife, an older man (Christopher Plummer) comes out as gay to his son. There is a real relationship here, a shakiness between dad and son that feels genuine. But the honesty seems to breed closeness and the two embark on a new relationship, late in life, one with understanding and humour. The story is told cleverly and shows a bravery we don’t often see on screen. It’s not necessarily about being gay, it’s about a father teaching his son about what is possible when you open your heart.
Catch Me If You Can – Christopher Walken is the shit. I just love the layered performance in this movie. Frank Abignale Sr. is obviously a huge influence on Frank Jr. Clearly this is where his charm comes from, but it’s also where he learns his seething resentment for the world. Even when his father makes for a rather pathetic picture, Frank Jr. idolizes him and chooses a life of crime not just to make his father proud, but restore his father to his former glory.
Big Fish – This is one of my all-time favourite movies (sorry, Matt – how did Ewan McGregor end up here twice?). The relationship here is complex – a son is called to his estranged father’s deathbed. He wants to be able to say goodbye to him, but isn’t sure if he even knows him. His father has told grandiose tall-tales his entire life, and those stories have gotten in the way of their relationship. The son thinks they are lies that put distance between them, and the father feels they are essential truths meant to serve as legend. They are his legacy. As the stories are retold, the son (Billy Crudup) comes to understand that the exact facts are not the point. His father (Albert Finney) is a story-teller, each story is infused with heart and meaning, and it’s not what they tell so much as how they’re told, and to whom.
What are your favourites?