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My Kid Could Paint That

Genre: , ,

Cast: Laura Olmstead

Director: Amir Bar-Lev

Rated: PG-13

Review By:
Rocco Passafuime

School:
SUNY Purchase '05

Quote:
"I don't compromise my values and I don't compromise my work. I won't give in." -Michael Moore

Release Date: March 4th, 2008
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Overall Grade: A-

My Kid Could Paint That

Review By: Rocco Passafuime
RoccoPassafuime@TheCinemaSource.com

My Kid Could Paint That

As film critics, our job is to often distinguish what is artistically-refined and what is essentially trash. However, it's also to be said often that the notion of art is on such a virtually infinite scale that virtually almost anything can be seen as such if enough people appreciate it.

Now, documentary filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev, after receiving much acclaim for his 2001 film Fighter, unravels this continuous debate for his sophomore effort. It's My Kid Could Paint That, which is now available on DVD.

The Olmsteads are a seemingly ordinary family from Binghamton, NY, with proud parents Mark and Laura. However, their daughter Marla has been hailed by the art world virtually overnight as showing a remarkable gift for painting abstract modern art, comparable to legendary painter Jackson Pollack.

However, the unusual part of the story is Marla is only four years old. Soon enough, the family got the art community paying top dollar for her paintings and enormous media attention soon followed worldwide.

However, it wasn't before long before the media began to suspect the Olmsteads of fraud. After a disastrous profile on CBS's hard-hitting newsmagazine 60 Minutes, the family must now bare the brunt of enormous media scrutiny when Marla's quality as a painter wavers when filmed, including from Bar-Lev himself.

My Kid Could Paint That starts itself off as a fascinating look into a worldwide media sensation, but soon changes into something more before Bar-Lev's lenses. It transforms itself over the course of the film into a dissection into not only the artistic merit of abstract art apparently so rudimentarily simple in theory that literally a four-year old can have her drawings be interpreted as such.

It's easy to sympathize with the clearly overwhelmed & bewildered Olmsteads as their family suffers a barrage of media scrutiny, which is a fascinating look inside the glowing, overwrought pedestal placement and subsequent cruel backlash of fame. However, Bar-Lev deserves some considerable credit for maintaining balance between his awe and raising suspicions.

This effectively helps to paint a full picture, no pun intended, of the unfolding scenario for the viewer and allows them to fully decide for themselves what to believe. In light of the burgeoning popularity in recent years of Michael Moore style of "documentary-as-opinion", it's beneficial for this particular subject matter. It's one that is endlessly debatable from the legitimacy of modern art to rock n'roll music to "golden age" Hollywood movies vs. the ones of the late 1960's-early 1970's renaissance to even the ever popular "what constitutes real music" on the genre of hip-hop and studio-based, producer-driven music.

The DVD's picture quality is in the 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio, with the sound quality in Dolby Digital Surround 5.1. The DVD also includes plenty of special features.

The first is audio commentary by director Amir Bar-Lev and New York Times art critic

Michael Kimmelman, who was an interview subject. It's fascinating for not only it's informational aspects, but how the debate rages on in the proceedings.

The second feature is the featurette "Back To Binghamton", which is almost a companion piece as Bar-Lev revisits the subject matter of his documentary and the debate continues. Rounding out the special features is the featurette "Michael Kimmelman On Art", which features Bar-Lev's entire interview with Kimmelman for the film as he makes some insightful analysis on the debate regarding the merit of abstract modern art.

All in all, while My Kid Could Paint That on it's surface may come off as a rather frothy idea for a documentary, the emerging controversy that is captured on film allows it to be one of the most unique of its kind. For anyone willing to take a chance on a documentary with such an enigmatic riddle as its subject matter, this film proves to really question your perceptions in far more fascinatingly complex ways than any before it.

Movie Grade: A-

DVD Features Grade: B

Overall Grade: A-

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