Thick as a Kubrick: Malkovich is leaden as a con artist who impersonated 2001?s director.

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Peter Sellers, thou should’st be living at this hour: A movie called Color Me Kubrick hath need of your chameleonic powers. What wonders you might have wrought with the part of Alan Conway, a real-life con artist who cut a swath of deceit through early-’90s England by pretending to be Stanley Kubrick. Conway looked nothing like the reclusive director, had no more than a passing knowledge of Kubrick’s oeuvre, and wasn’t even American. Yet he managed to swindle piles of cash from a host of patsies, many of them gay men with showbiz dreams. His victims’ embarrassment helped Conway escape prosecution, and even when the nets closed around him, he escaped jail time (according to the film) by pleading mental incapacity. We can only imagine how coolly and precisely Sellers would have inhabited this charming sociopath. As it is, we’re left with the one-man carnage crew of John Malkovich, who flounces from room to room bedecked in do-rags, rhinestones, and paisley tops. He approaches the role with a certain Rod Steigernish gusto, but no matter what con Malkovich is running, he’s flagrantly unbelievable. That creepy stare, the lurching louche-ness, the wildly unstable accent—this guy couldn’t have made it past the doorman. The script (by former Kubrick personal assistant Anthony Frewin) has flashes of piquancy—such as a parody of the famous “I am Spartacus” sequence, transposed to a mental ward—but director Brian Cook (a former assistant director to Kubrick) keeps wavering in and out of black comedy and pushes his actors toward cartoonishness. The film’s most obvious antecedent, Six Degrees of Separation, took a similar premise—in that case, someone pretending to be Sidney Poitier’s son—and transformed it into a meditation on isolation. Color Me Kubrick gives us nothing much more than a rogue who’s neither lovable enough to root for nor appalling enough to hate. By film’s end—10 minutes in, actually—you just want him to go away.