John Malkovich is one of those actors who lends instant credibility to whatever project he accepts, and "Color Me Kubrick," the new comedy directed by the legendarily reclusive auteur’s longtime assistant director and co-producer, Brian Cook, is no exception. It sets the stage for Malkovich to audition a variety of comic personae, all uniquely rendered and linked only by a common eccentricity — their insistence upon being known, however fraudulently, as Stanley Kubrick.
The real Kubrick was regarded as a bit of an eccentric in his own right, of course, largely the result of his distaste for travel and publicity. Perhaps, then, it should come as little surprise that an impostor was born, basking in the spotlight in lieu of the director himself. "Color Me Kubrick" is a long, scathing dig at Alan Conway, the drunken British socialite who improbably passed himself off as the American filmmaker, mostly as a means of scamming victims for money and, in some cases, sex.
The most amazing thing about Conway’s exploits is that people were so willing to accept him on hisword, despite his flamboyant behavior, garish outfits and outrageous boasts — none of which seem to jibe with Kubrick’s reputation as one who fiercely shunned the trappings of fame. (That Conway looked nothing like the man whose identity he coveted seems almost incidental, since most — not even New York Times drama critic Frank Rich, who encountered Conway one night at an upscale eatery — could immediately associate Kubrick’s name with a face.)
The problem with Conway’s story — and "Color Me Kubrick" — is that there is no emotional arc to his character, nor any real insight into his motives. Yes, he craves the fame that Kubrick eschews; he wants gourmet meals, an endless supply of vodka and the adulation of fans and fellow celebrities alike. But beyond that, Cook’s film merely holds him up as an object of ridicule, a pathetic leech who stumbles from one con job to the next so long as he’s got his booze and his patchwork bohemian wardrobe.
There is plenty of humor in Malkovich’s performance, and it is interesting to see him constantly reimagining his enigmatic muse, first as a tender soul in search of a new leading man, later as an extroverted boor who doubles as a serial name-dropper.
But Conway’s antics grow increasingly one-note, and less believable as he begins to sink beneath the weight of his addictions. Is his story funny, tragic or some kind of biting commentary on the innately human desire for fame? A bit of all three, really, but "Color Me Kubrick" might have been more compelling had the decision been made to stick with just one.
Color Me Kubrick **½
Starring John Malkovich, Jim Davidson, Richard Grant, Luke Mably
Written by Anthony Frewin
Directed by Brian Cook
Running time:1 hour, 26 minutes