2 1/2 StarsThere is a dreamy quality to the almost satisfying art-world drama, The Forger. The most impressive aspect of this near miss, is the top talent cast that features Josh Hutcherson and includes such acting luminaries as Alfred Molina and Lauren Bacall. Josha (Hutcherson) is a 15 year old orphan roaming the misty streets of beautiful Carmel, California. Seeking shelter from a rainstorm, Josh breaks into a vacant upscale home. Taking up residence he settles in for a hot shower, prepares himself a hefty sandwich, then in perhaps the most improbable moment in a film full of improbabilities, Josh stumbles on a canvas that is a half completed forgery of a famous painting. So what does the young orphan criminal do? He completes the painting in a fit of impulse. Eventually the police show up and arrest Josh, but he is bailed out by Everly (Molina) the owner of the home, housing the now completed exact forgery. Everly persuades a social worker to release Josh into his custody where he is soon introduced to the art-forgery community. Think of it as Good Will Painting.
There is a nice chemistry in the performances, particularly between Molina and Hutcherson. Their scenes play at times like Mr. Mayagi and Daniel, if Miaygui were a con-man criminal. The sequences dealing with the refined aspects of completing an exact replica, are fascinating and well-handled. Unfortunately a sub-plot featuring a quirky high-school romance is awkward and comes off as forced. These passages, I believe are meant to make the Josh character more appealing, in actuality it does the inverse. Therein in lies my biggest problem with The Forger. It is a critical error in the scripting, that we are not presented with a likable main character. The troubled youth, struggling with genius archetype has worked before, most notably in the aforementioned, Good Will Hunting. That film had a Oscar winning screenplay, striking a careful balance between the physical and emotional boundaries of its leads. The Forger, presents us with a kid who is arrogant, violent, and borderline socially inept then asks us to believe that he can expose the sordid individuals in the underground world of art forgery.
The cinematography, score and production values are on the level, and the leads are fantastic, but the direction tends to be flatly staged and unimpressive. The Forger never amounts to anything substantial, but it does offer a diverting 90 minutes with great acting and an interesting moral dilemma at the center of its story.
Director: Lawrence Roeck
Stars: Josh Hutcherson, Alfred Molina, Lauren Bacall