Six Degrees of Separation

A young black man, stabbed, rings the doorbell of a fancy New York apartment. Art dealer Flan Kittredge and his wife Ouisa let him in. Claiming to be Sidney Poitier's son Paul, he lectures on 'The Catcher in the Rye' and the nature of imagination, cooks a delicious meal, and talks about his famous father. Deeply impressed, the Kittredges let him spend the night, only to discover him in bed with an unknown man next morning. Shocked, they kick him out.
coverThey then hear similar stories from fellow jetsetters, and find a link in the high school their children went to. It turns out that a schoolmate was Paul's lover and trained him to fake an upperclass upbringing, telling details about the families he knew.
Paul then convinces a young couple from Utah he's Kittredge's bastard son, 'borrows' money from them and sleeps with the guy, who kills himself. Paul is now a murder suspect and has a frantic telephone conversation with Ouisa, who promises to make him part of her society if he gives himself up. He is arrested and never heard from again.
This movie, based on a play based (amazingly) on a true story, subtly exposes the twisted, racist relationship between the Kittredges and Paul. To the couple, Paul turns from an ideal son-they-never-had (and a son of Poitier, the ultimate 'acceptable' black man) into 'probably a crackhead'. Paul, on the other hand, desperately attempts to become part of a society that could never accept him, while demonstrating that he is equal or superior to them in the long monolog he presents. All this is enough to make the movie deeply impressive. But it's the acting, particularly by the unlikely Will Smith, who pulls it off brilliantly in one of his first feature film roles, that tops the cake. Go see it.

Posted by cronopio at 02:04 AM, December 09, 2002