"Fractured, Fake Family"
What You Need To Know:
Every character is so dispiriting that THE CHAMELEON winds up being rather unpleasant, even though it’s creepily effective throughout most of its running time and the performances are strong across the board. Although the movie implies most of its seamy events, it still leaves the viewer feeling grimy. It also leaves some unanswered questions. Not helping matters is the excessive strong foul language in THE CHAMELEON.
(PaPaPa, LLL, V, S, N, AA, DD, MM) Very strong, depressing pagan worldview; at least 60 obscenities and profanities (including about 35 “f” words, 15 “s” words and 10 GDs); implied plot point that a teenage boy was killed and buried years before is discussed throughout but not ultimately revealed to be true, while main character claims in three different scenes he was kidnapped and sexually abused, one quickly shown fistfight between adult men, and one implied fight between young boys in an old home video as their mother’s voice is heard shrieking obscenities in the background; no sex scenes but character claims he was sexually abused after being kidnapped; upper male nudity in two scenes where main character shaves himself all over his chest to appear younger and deceive people into believing he’s a teenager; alcohol use and drunkenness are shown in two or three brief scenes, plus people shown hungover; smoking and one strong scene reveals that the mother in the movie’s main family is a heroin addict preparing to shoot a needle; and, the rampant deception at the core of the main character, lying, dysfunctional family, and repeated threats from main character’s alleged half-brother.
Based on a true story, THE CHAMELEON is a well-shot, moody psychological thriller that nonetheless is too grimy and bleak to be of much enjoyment to moviegoers.
French actor Marc-Andre Grondin portrays Fredric Fortin, a real-life twentysomething male who used an endless series of disguises and false personalities to scam living arrangements from families across Europe and ultimately the U.S. after being booted out of countless foster homes and orphanages across Europe. As the movie opens, he is found lying in the middle of the road in the French Alps as police find him, and he claims to have been kidnapped and raped, and the authorities believe him when he claims that he’s the missing son of a white-trash family in Louisiana headed by Ellen Barkin in an utterly fantastic performance.
The bulk of the movie follows Fortin as he pretends to be Nicholas Randall and fit into the small-town life, as the family veers between believing him and doubting his story. Along the way, an FBI agent (Famke Janssen) keeps trying to figure out if he’s telling the truth as well, while a drunken half-brother (Nick Stahl) keeps threatening and verbally abusing Fredric/Nicholas, and the sister tries to maintain a brave face and open arms for him throughout. Ultimately, the movie doesn’t answer enough questions. It never satisfactorily explains how Fortin found this small-town American family, nor why the family was so desperate to believe him, and what actually happened to their missing boy.
Every character is so dispiriting that THE CHAMELEON winds up being rather unpleasant, even though it’s creepily effective throughout most of its running time and the performances are strong across the board. Overall, although the movie implies most of its seamy events, it still leaves the viewer feeling grimy. Not helping matters is all the strong foul language in THE CHAMELEON.