Is Alice Nelson really a Verdict judge? Or is she just perpetrating one giant con.
A nice con artist is still just a liar with a smile on his face.
I was once conned by a woman who appeared to be down on her luck. She was sweet and said all the right things—and I fell for it. It wasn't a lot of money that she got from me, but what angered me was the fact that she was able to figure out what made me tick in order to obtain a few lousy bucks; the experience was sobering. What I learned from it was that the con artist becomes what you want them to be, a blank slate that you can project your impressions upon, which makes it very easy for them to worm their way into your life. I had a reluctant affinity for a disturbed young man in the film VIPs. He conned a whole slew of people, but engendered some sympathy because of the desperate nature of his motives.
Facts of the Case
Based on the true story of a Brazilian con artist, Wagner Moura plays Marcelo, a young man who's more comfortable being anyone other than himself. With a strong desire to become a pilot, Marcelo takes on different personas in order to fulfill his dream. But his charades take a serious turn and Marcelo must finally face the truth of who he really is.
In VIPs, Wagner Moura is fantastic as Marcelo; playing him, very believably mind you, from high school age into the character's twenties; since Moura is actually 34, that is some feat. Marcelo is part con man and part little boy looking for approval from his mommy and daddy. He perpetrates these elaborate cons quite convincingly because he is a troubled soul who actually believes he is whatever persona he takes on. It isn't that Marcelo is pretending to be a pilot or the brother of the head of an airline, he 'becomes' those people through and through. So much so, that when he is in character and someone reminds him of his true self, Marcelo resists the reality, repeating over and over the name of the person he is pretending to be as if this mantra will make the whole sham all the more real. Teetering between his actual existence and the life he has created, Marcelo works hard to maintain the charades, because he really doesn't know where Marcelo begins and his pretend personas end.
Marcelo's relationship with his parents is complicated to say the least. Norival Rizzo portrays Marcelo's mysterious father, a pilot who Marcelo idolizes. Rizzo is such an enigma in the film that he doesn't even have a name; he's only known as "Pai de Marcelo," which means "Father of Marcelo." But Pai's thoughts and opinions continuously run through his son's head in times of stress and trouble. The father is the catalyst for many of Marcelo's capers, often doling out unwise advice to his charge that makes matters far worse than they need to be. Marcelo's mother, Silvia, lives a lonely life and wants her son to give up his 'silly' dreams of becoming a pilot. When Marcelo informs Silvia that he has become a pilot, the disappointment is all over her face and she can't bring herself to support her son's decision; asking instead why he would want to be a loser for the rest of his life. (Nice mothering skills huh?) Gisele Froes is quite compelling as Silvia, a woman whose life is less than satisfying, so she tries to create in her son the person she could never be. Silvia was almost as confused and lost as Marcelo, acting less like a mother and more like a peer on equal standing. VIPs is a nice little film that explores the dark psyche of a habitual mimicker. Moura succeeds in the difficult task of turning this con man into a sympathetic, albeit pathetic, character.
VIPs is presented in standard definition 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, with 5.1 Dolby Surround audio. The film was subtitled and I loved listening to the beautiful Portuguese language. However, occasionally the subtitles went by a little too fast, making it hard at times to keep up with the dialogue. Extras include interviews with the cast and crew, the segment featuring director Toniko Melo was insightful and shed light on the inner workings of the Marcelo character.
Although Marcelo made his own choices, Silvia and Pai share some of the blame for his behavior. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, they helped plant the negative seeds that created a son who is a blank slate, able to mimic whomever he believes will give him some sense of importance…at least for a short period of time.
Fantástico! Not Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
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