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RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
What’s the male equivalent of a gold digger? Let’s do a movie about that!
Starring Eric McCormack, Sherry Stringfield, Emily Alyn Lind, Stephen McHattie, Regina Taylor
Written by Edithe Swensen
Directed by Mikael Salomon
Sandra Boss (Stringfield) is a high-powered businesswoman who wants nothing more to do with her ex-husband, Clark Rockefeller (McCormack), with whom she shares custody of their little daughter (Alyn Lind). When Rockefeller kidnaps their daughter during his chaperoned time with her, it sets off a huge manhunt and investigation that reveals that Rockefeller isn’t who he says he is — and may never be found again.
Ever the charmer, Dudley was sly enough to paint eyeballs on his eyelids so that he could focus on the aspects he truly loved about her without her knowing.
You can’t immediately dismiss the cinematic relevance of a movie just because it features television stars in leading roles. Not many have been able to make the jump from the small screen to the big screen, but after George Clooney’s rise to Oscar winner from playing second fiddle to Goose on NBC, you can’t fault Will & Grace‘s Eric McCormack for holding out hope that his foray into features could provide similar success.
Unfortunately, Who Is Clark Rockefeller? is no The Peacemaker. Not that it was all that fantastic of a debut, either — between that and One Fine Day, Clooney seemed lucky to attain Patrick Wilson’s career. But at least those were bona fide movies with Nicole Kidman and Michelle Pfeiffer along his side, carrying their weight by holding up the marquee with their brand names above the titles. This flick is all McCormack to win or lose on his own.
And McCormack is no Clooney.
To be fair, this is barely a jump into movie theaters. It’s barely above being a made-for-Lifetime picture, actually. Instead of following a more traditional and relatively invisible three-act structure that most Hollywood films follow, Rockefeller feels like an extended hour-long drama — as if maybe this were one of those feature-length pilots for a new TV show. And it’s plain as day that the script was written in this manner because every fifteen-to-twenty minutes or so there’s a semi-climactic beat that gets overemphasized with a fade to black. It’s like they wrote it assuming that this would be only shown on TV so they included built-in commercial break moments so that it they wouldn’t have to cut out at inopportune times. This isn’t inherently bad. It just changes the dynamics of viewing when you are expecting Hollywood and instead get a movie-of-the-week.
“No, I said my name was Clark Rocke-… Yes. I’m Clark Kent.”
Another sign that this is just an extended TV show, acting as Kidman to McCormack’s Clooney is another ER alum, Sherry Stringfield, who plays Sandra Boss, the ex-wife of the titular enigma. She doesn’t even get her name on the front of the DVD, which is saying quite a lot when you’re the only other name actor in the piece. It’s even more of a slap in the face considering that despite it being billed as McCormack’s tour de force, it’s really Stringfield’s movie. After Clark Rockefeller kidnaps his own daughter, Boss finds herself at the center of a massive manhunt and police investigation that reveals just how little she knew about her ex-husband. We learn all about the rise and fall of their relationship as she recants her life story to the cops, hoping that it will shed some light on where Rockefeller may have gone.
Stringfield is much stronger as the mother searching for her daughter than she is pretending that she’s smitten by McCormack’s ridiculous Rockefeller. First, they don’t even bother making the actors look younger in the flashbacks, so you have these supposed twentysomethings being portrayed by fortysomethings. Not exactly convincing. But, the main issue with the movie is the conceit that Rockefeller is this endlessly charming aristocrat who is able to fool everyone, including his own wife, that he is in fact Clark Rockefeller — yes, related to the first American billionaire, oil magnate John D. Rockefeller. I mean, in this day and age, it seems like it would be pretty easy to debunk such a tall tale, especially for a Harvard MBA like Sandra Boss.
“I swear to Christ, the only reason I took this role was because they said I’d be acting opposite Dakota Fanning. I don’t know you. I don’t care who you are. Just get your lines right and don’t waste my time or I’ll end you.”
Accepting this as part of the fantasy of the movies, it would be an easier pill to swallow had McCormack been at all charming and convincing. Besides his accent feeling forced (some sort of ultra high class pomp), it was his method of wooing Boss that killed it for me: seriously, he brags about knowing six languages and the one that he pulls out to impress her is Vulkan? Which, of course, she knows and speaks fluently, as well. Laughable and ridiculous, it didn’t fit the universe of this movie at all. A quirky indie romance like (500) Days of Summer? Sure that would feel much more organic. But this? I don’t know if that was some of the truth that snuck into the script (it is based on a true story, after all), but writer Edithe Swensen should’ve given McCormack and Stringfield something better on which to base their love affair. Otherwise, it’s just generic tropes that cement their relationship: Rockefeller’s extreme wealth along with his constant mentioning of his taste in art and interest in charity work sweeps her off her feet. All style, no substance. Nothing that makes this duo memorable or unique at all, and in turn, we don’t ever connect with them at all.
Leonard knew that he nearly had her heart in the palm of his hands. To seal the deal, he turned to his most trusted method: wooing her with the sultry sounds of his didgeridoo.
Also hurting the film is the flawed decision to tell the story in flashbacks. We know almost off the bat that this guy isn’t Clark Rockefeller, so when we get these expositive scenes that show their relationship blossoming quickly and then beginning its slow decline, nothing packs much punch. There’s always the underlying tension of whether or not she’ll ever see her daughter again, but that’s a false sense of motion because we’re learning so much that we’d never need to know in order to find Rockefeller. We spin our wheels with their crumbling marriage when we should be following leads on where the nameless man is going since the story isn’t how Boss comes to realize that her husband isn’t who she thought he was; it’s about figuring out who Rockefeller is. And Boss’s recanting of their entire history does little in solving this riddle.
I bet the real person on whom the movie is based is an intriguing figure; although his story feels much more like something we’d have seen on Unsolved Mysteries or America’s Most Wanted rather than a full-length movie. Or if they had treated the movie like the mystery they wanted it to be and let it play out with us in the dark along with Sandra Boss as together we start to realize that Rockefeller isn’t who he claims to be — well, I think that might have been something.
Being rich means not having to actually walk when walking your dog and having octogenarians carrying your belongings for you.
If you’ve watched a cable movie before, then you know the quality you can expect when you pop in this DVD. No frills, no extras. Just as bland and forgettable as the movie itself.
Exactly what this movie should’ve been instead.