Thursday, November 8, 2007

My Kid Could Paint That

Posted on Thu, Nov 8, 2007 at 4:00 AM

****
My Kid Could Paint That
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Rated: PG-13
Cast: Anthony Brunelli, Stuart Simpson
Director: Amir Bar-Lev
WorkNameSort: My Kid Could Paint That
Our Rating: 4.00
My Kid Could Paint That is about a lot of things – least of all the astonishing story of Marla Olmstead, a 4-year-old abstract painter from Binghamton, N.Y., whose works have brought her thousands of dollars and international acclaim. More than anything, Amir Bar-Lev’s documentary is both a critique and an embodiment of the myth of objectivity in nonfiction reportage. The film starts out as a fascinating examination of how a girl can balance the unwarranted responsibilities of Important Artist with those of an average elementary-schooler. But it soon becomes a director’s notes on a scandal, thanks to a controversial 60 Minutes II report that aired midway through the filming. Once the question is raised of whether Marla received crucial help on her Pollockian abstractions from her sometimes-artist father, Bar-Lev puts his own moral obligations at the forefront, debating in the narration his lingering doubts about the Olmsteads’ wish for the documentary to exonerate their daughter. The question “What is art?” becomes “What is truth?,” a philosophically heady inquiry that is clearly meant to comment on the documentary form as well. Even when Bar-Lev seems unable to let the scandal go, My Kid Could Paint That is great theater, thereby proving that even a story as unique as this can’t stay fresh without a little media-manipulated drama.

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