||Movie buffs will have a great time at this loopy lark of a movie based loosely on the real-life story of a shameless confidence man who pretended to be director Stanley Kubrick during the 1990s and took in a wide variety of people from all walks of life with his imposture, despite the fact that he actually knew very little about the filmmaker’s career. As a piece of cinema “Color Me Kubrick” isn’t particularly good: it’s shambling and episodic, without any sense of context or background, and many of the individual scenes seem to have been tossed together without much preparation (or, in some cases, even a needed reshoot). But the sheer goofiness of the premise, coupled with its gossipy “insider” nature (it was written by a fellow who actually served Kubrick as a researcher, and collected reports on the imposter’s activities for the his boss, and is directed by another who was an assistant director to Kubrick), goes far to carry it along.
And it’s all energized by the take-no-prisoners performance of John Malkovich as Alan Conway, the extravagantly gay fellow who undertook the wacky identity theft not for any huge purpose but merely to cadge drinks, meals and baubles, impress people for a while and catch the attention of potential several-night stands. Malkovich vamps it up deliciously, savoring every crazy moment, waspish glance, raised eyebrow and sardonic grin.
But there’s a downside to the star’s overwhelming presence: the rest of the cast pales by comparison. That includes Jim Davidson as the success-hungry British crooner (like a low-rent Tom Jones) who becomes, in the later stages, Conway’s major mark until his imposture is discovered, and even Richard E. Grant as a gullible club owner whom the phony Kubrick promises financial help to support his business. Both could have used a firmer directorial hand. On the other hand, William Hootkins and Marisa Berenson (another link to Kubrick—she co-starred in “Barry Lyndon”) are so convincing as New York Times critic Frank Rich, who was instrumental in exposing Conway, and his wife Alix that initially you don’t even recognize them as actors.
Moreover, if there was any deep psychological cause behind Conway’s actions, writer Anthony Frewin and director Brian Cook certainly make no effort to discover it. And their treatment of the gay side of Conway’s stunts is often more than a tad too broad. Their picture, in other words, is content to skate the surface, not always very accurately at that (the subtitle is “a true…ish story”). But thanks to the star’s freewheeling, splashy turn, it’s fun to take a spin around the ice with the filmmakers. And they’ve cannily employed allusions to Kubrick films—both visual (the opening scene, which mimics “A Clockwork Orange”) and aural (snippets of music that the director employed in his pictures regularly pop up)—that add to the fun. (It might have been enjoyable, though—especially given the scripter’s personal experience—to see a bit of how Kubrick reacted to the report’s of Conway’s shenanigans.)
Technically, “Color Me Kubrick” is just adequate, with Howard Atherton’s cinematography rather plain and the locations rather hit-and-miss. The picture is never unpleasant to look at, but neither does it try to emulate the kind of surface perfection that Kubrick himself aimed for. Watching it, one inevitably wonders how he might have made the picture himself. And regrets that he’s not around to have done so.
But that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying what his two erstwhile collaborators—and Malkovich—have wrought.