Fact-based drama about a con man who poses as the renowned actor Sidney Poitier’s son to make his way up the ladder of New York society, where he finds plenty of opportunities to exploit the rich and gullible.
As an alien-chaser in Independence Day (1996) and Men in Black (1997), Will Smith served notice on Eddie Murphy that he was the new, smarter, cheekier black kid on the block. But, with this earlier bourgeois satire, he had already displayed the talents that were to elevate him to the superstar stratosphere.
As Paul, the young man who talks his way into the rich New York household of liberal-minded art dealer Flan Kittredge (Donald Sutherland) and his wife Ouisa (Stockard Channing) by pretending to be the friend of their student children, Smith is as busy as a gadfly.
John Guare has perhaps been too careful in transferring his play to the screen and Fred Schepisi’s direction is too safe for a real sarcastic sting, but Smith’s performance shines above these limitations, transcending the too-glib spelling-out of the gulf between integrity and hypocrisy.
Mary Beth Hurt
Anthony Michael Hall